U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski, like Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer, is opposed to moving the Legislature to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and also wants the capital to remain here.
Murkowski, the leading Republican gubernatorial candidate, took a strong stand against a ballot initiative that would move the Legislature to the Mat-Su or to Anchorage during a stop in Juneau on Friday.
"The bottom line is the capital should not be moved. It's not a priority, the state can't afford it, but I'm amazed at how much of it has already moved," Murkowski said.
Ulmer, Murkowski's leading Democratic opponent, is also a vocal opponent of efforts to move the Legislature and the capital. She called the ballot initiative a veiled attempt to relocate state government.
Murkowski also said Friday that too much of state government now resides outside of Juneau.
Five cabinet-level appointees under the Knowles administration make their home in or near Anchorage. They are Deborah Sedwick, Michele Brown, Phil Oates, Pat Pourchot and Wilson Condon.
"When I was a commissioner, we had all of our commissioners here," said Murkowski, who was head of the Alaska Department of Economic Development under former Gov. Walter J. Hickel's first administration.
Murkowski said he was alarmed by the extent of the so-called "capital creep," whereby state officials and services gravitate toward Anchorage. But he didn't attribute it to Knowles.
Knowles wanted his appointees to live in Juneau at the start of his administration but has no policy on the matter, said spokesman Bob King. "Over the years, in order to keep people, I think he's shown flexibility there," King said.
Ulmer says that more state jobs have come to Juneau under the Knowles administration.
"People have said, 'Well, gee, in the last eight years we've lost positions in Juneau,' " Ulmer told the Juneau Empire. "Actually it's not true. If you look at the number of state positions in Juneau in 1994 versus in 2001, which is the last year we have numbers for, there are actually more state positions in Juneau today than there were eight years ago."
She said that if elected, she would also ask her appointed commissioners to live in Juneau.
"But wherever they live they do have to spend a lot of time statewide because the state doesn't want to not see their commissioners," she said.
Capital creep is an issue that resonates in Juneau, where state government is the dominant employer. Murkowski cited it after a meeting with the Alaska Committee, a group organized in Juneau to battle attempts to move the capital.
"We're certainly disappointed with the number of commissioners that don't live here," said Win Gruening, chairman of the Alaska Committee, a Juneau organization fighting efforts to move the Legislature. "I think it's something that is an issue that needs to be addressed."
The Alaska Committee has invited both Murkowski and Ulmer to meet with its group, Gruening said. But the committee will not endorse a candidate, he said.
Ballot Measure 2, which goes to the voters during the Nov. 5 general election, calls for moving the Legislature to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. If adequate facilities can't be found there, the Legislature would meet in Anchorage.
It also repeals part of the so-called FRANK initiative, which mandates the state provide estimates of the cost of moving the Legislature and requires voter approval of those costs before a move can happen.
Supporters of the ballot initiative say it would give voters more access to their lawmakers since Juneau doesn't have a highway linking it to the rest of the state.
Empire reporter Tim Inklebarger contributed to this article.
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