I won't take a back seat to anyone when it comes to promoting the development of Alaska's natural resources. The Alaska AFL-CIO, an organization representing 60,000 Alaskans, also doesn't play second fiddle to any individual or organization when it comes to supporting and promoting good jobs and a strong economy for Alaskans. So I must take exception with the opinions of my good friend and colleague, Jerry Hood, regarding the condition of our state's economy and with regard to which candidate for governor is best qualified to address the challenges and opportunities for Alaska.
Both Frank and Fran Ulmer agree on the importance of responsibly developing Alaska's natural resources. But the issue in this election is not whether there will be economic development in Alaska - there has been and there will be. The issue is who will benefit from this development? Will it be the multi-billion dollar outside corporations with boardrooms in London and Houston or will it be the people of Alaska? It doesn't help Alaskans when large outside corporations come here, make billions of dollars from our natural resources, do not pay their fair share and do not hire Alaskan workers.
Fran understands this. More than at any time in Alaska's history, wages paid to Alaskans is at an all time high. Since 1994, wages paid to Alaskan residents increased by $2.4 billion, while wages paid to non-residents decreased by $13 million. Under this administration, 30,000 jobs have been created in Alaska, while the rest of the country has lost millions of jobs in the last two years. Many of these jobs are in the high wage area, like oil and gas, mining, construction and health care. Last year, Alaska ranked as the fourth fastest in per capita income growth in the United States. In fact, the three lowest yearly unemployment rates in Alaska's history have all occurred in the last four years!
No one can ever accuse me of not supporting capital projects in Alaska. I've supported nearly every capital project that's ever been proposed in my 32 years in Alaska. I've probably never seen a construction project that I didn't like. However, Frank's big scheme to build all these new projects has just one problem. Money! We can't even maintain the roads we have now. Just this past year, the state was forced to eliminate dozens of road maintenance positions because of legislative budget cuts. And just wait until it starts snowing!
Frank has stated that the fiscal gap needs nothing other than "growing the economy ." If ANWR and the gasline were approved and expedited in the energy bill, the state wouldn't see revenues from those projects for years. To close the state's fiscal gap through resource development you have to do it with oil. We would have to develop and bring into production something like 40 Alpine fields in the next three years!
The candidate sticking his finger in the air and telling Alaskans what he thinks they want to hear - or not telling them what they don't want to hear - is Sen. Murkowski.
The negative attack ads regarding ANWR and Fran nominating Bill Clinton at the 1992 Democratic Convention are really outrageous. Paint Jerry Hood and myself with the same brush because we were both at the 1992 convention, and, reluctantly, both of us ultimately supported the Clinton nomination. Jerry was a delegate to the 1996 Democratic Convention - after the 1995 ANWR/Clinton veto - and he supported the Clinton nomination at that convention also. Does that mean we do not support the opening of the Coastal Plain? I think not!
Murkowski is now trying to explain away as "procedural" his votes against increasing the minimum wage, education funding college loan funding and his support for permanently replacing legally striking workers. His running mate, Loren Leman, was the only senator to vote against increasing the minimum wage in Alaska.
We don't need a dreamer with pie-in-the-sky ideas. We need a leader with experience and common sense. I'm a Fran man!
Mano Frey is executive president of the Alaska AFL-CIO, co-chair of Arctic Power and business manager of Laborers Local 341.
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