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Governor blasts lawmakers for session failure

Murkowski compares missing fiscal solution to dead cat on the porch

Posted: Sunday, June 27, 2004

Gov. Frank Murkowski ended a disappointing special legislative session by swinging a figurative dead cat by the tail.

Comparing blame for a failed fiscal plan to a dead cat on the porch, Murkowski said Friday that his doorstep is clean.

A day after the special session ended, Murkowski blamed legislators for failing to act on his fiscal plan. He said in a news conference that lawmakers should have approved it or one of their own.

"We knew what the objective was and the Legislature simply did not care to act on it," he said.

On the lapel of his suit jacket, Murkowski wore a button with a cartoon of a dead cat, drawn by spokesman John Manly.

"There's a great deal of concern around here on how a session ends and where the dead cat lies," Murkowski said. "I didn't know how else to do this other than to wear it, but the shoe doesn't fit.

"It's kind of amusing to me because I've had a little experience in the political spectrum and I always figured the majority had the opportunity to leave the dead cat on the right doorstep and I still believe that, so I guess I'd leave this little button with the generalization that if the shoe fits, wear it. But the dead cat to this session belongs on the ... not here."

With that Murkowski removed the button and plunked it down on the conference table on the third floor of the Capitol.

Lawmakers during the special and regular sessions rejected Murkowski's proposal to use more than $600 million a year from the Alaska Permanent Fund to help fill the state's chronic fiscal gap. They also rejected proposals to reform workers' compensation laws and approve school and transportation bond measures.

The only thing the Legislature did agree on during the three-day special session was a $1 tobacco tax increase to be phased in over the next three years. The tax will jump 60 cents in 2005 and 20 cents in both 2006 and 2007. Once in place, the tax will raise about $33 million a year for the state.

Several lawmakers complained during and after the session that Murkowski did not contact them early with his proposals or do the proper homework necessary to make the special session a success.

Murkowski defended himself Friday, saying he spoke regularly with the leadership from both houses to reach a consensus on his proposals. He said he has met with most legislators during the regular session and many during the special session.

"I'm kind of amused at the response of some that came down and made the convenient generalization, 'Well, the governor didn't do his homework,'" Murkowski said. "Well I can't tell you how many meetings we've had."

Speaker of the House Pete Kott, R-Eagle River, defended the administration's efforts.

"I think he relied quite a bit on myself and the president of the Senate, as well as other members in various leadership positions, to get that message out to the members," Kott said. "And the newest (permanent fund) idea was not a radical departure from the previous one, just a few nuances, so it was not difficult to understand the changes.

"I think he did about as much as he could do, beyond just going down and breaking arms and calling in Guido from Detroit."

But Kott wasn't ready to take responsibility for the dead cat.

"I think the governor was pretty clear about (the dead cat), that it shouldn't end up on the administration's doorstep, and I'll say it shouldn't end up on the House's doorstep," he said. "So you can draw your own conclusions."

Murkowski said he has tasked the Legislative Budget and Audit committee to study the fiscal gap this summer to provide recommendations for the Legislature next year.

• Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at timothy.inklebarger@juneauempire.com.



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