Don't forget schools, contracts, Bush power

Posted: Monday, April 17, 2000

Legislators are barreling through this session and it appears they could adjourn early. While we enjoy having them visit our city, an early session also means financial savings for the state.

Although the governor has called the session so far ``cooperative, bipartisan and results-oriented,'' there are still a few key items out there to be dealt with. Those include a plan to fund the Power Cost Equalization Program, funding state labor contracts and money to repair and build schools.

It's fairly easy, sitting on the sidelines, to urge legislators to fund this program and add this or that. The hard part, of course, is prioritizing and determining adequate funding levels while at the same time trying to make up for multi-million dollar deficits. It's an often frustrating task for legislators, trying to appease constituents, balance a budget and do what they think is best for the state overall as well. It's a job where we certainly don't envy the legislators, but it's also one they have assumed by seeking public office.

And so among the myriad of voices cajoling, shouting and persuading, we'd like to add our own for the PCE program, state contracts and school funding.

The equalization program, while it doesn't really impact Juneau, does deal with some of our Southeast neighbors, as well as thousands of people elsewhere in the Bush. It's a program that helps offset dramatic electric costs in certain areas. Even despite the program, those using PCE still pay drastically higher power costs. It's a great program to help others.

We also urge legislators to fund the state labor contracts. Over the past couple of years, raises have been limited to less than the rate of inflation. While there are concerns over proposals to allow employees to cash in more sick/vacation time than in the past, we believe those details can be worked out among the unions to the satisfaction of the legislators.

We are always strong proponents of education. We hope some type of bond package can be worked out for repairs and building of new schools. Education is the bedrock of any state or nation. It is through education that we can expand our economic base and improve our citizenry.

And so in a time when legislators are trying to cut the budget, we also throw in this Catch-22 to fund these programs and contracts. We believe they are in the best interests of the state, and simply ask the Legislature to work its miracles, like it always seems to do.

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