I was taken aback, but not really surprised, when Gov. Murkowski's chief of staff personally attacked me in his recent column. Clearly he was trying to divert blame and responsibility for the failure of his boss' expensive and largely pointless special legislative session.
He said it was absurd for me to contend that Murkowski's strong desire for a new jet made finding a fiscal solution more difficult. Well, if public opinion is any indication, the governor's poor judgment regarding a jet has fanned the flames of distrust for his permanent fund-only approach to filling the fiscal gap.
More than one person on the street has told me to not let Murkowski take a dime of their permanent fund dividend to pay for his jet. When I point out it's a different pot of money, they say it's all public funds, and they are right.
If he was uncertain of where we stood, I say the position of Democratic legislators was consistent and clear. We believe the voters will require protection of the PFD in order to allow use of the fund's excess earnings for government, and a two for one split (two dollars to dividends and one to government) of the percent of market value payout has the best chance of passage. It would provide $450 million for essential services and protect the dividend. If Gov. Murkowski is angry at the Democrats for trying to solve the problem and protect the dividend, so be it.
I would respectfully request that instead of playing the blame game, or hiring expensive publicists to improve his image, the governor reconsider the jet purchase, in favor of the real homeland security needs of first responders. I would also ask the governor to consider working with us on a fiscal plan that truly protects the dividend and education.
We will continue to work with the Gov. Murkowski when possible, and to hold him accountable whenever necessary.
Sen. Johnny Ellis
Senate Minority Leader