Empire editorial: Vote no on Ballot Measure 1

Posted: Friday, November 01, 2002

Every 10 years Alaska voters are required by law to visit the question of holding a Constitutional Convention. The Legislature does have the power to call a convention any time it wants but has not found it necessary to do so over the past 30 years.

The framers of the Alaska's Constitution must have done a very good job of it, since an overhaul has not been necessary since it was adopted.

The state's constitution is, in fact, a wonderfully malleable document that can be modified by amendment when popular support so dictates.

Passage of Ballot Measure 1 would set the stage for a full-scale convention that would cost $50,000 or more a day. Opening the floodgates for special interests and political factions to modify the legal framework to government for their advantage could be disastrous.

Given the current unsettled state of Alaska's political landscape, this is no time to risk creating cracks in the cornerstone of our government.

Voters should follow the recommendation of the League of Women Voters of Alaska and vote no on Ballot Measure No. 1.

Vote yes on these general obligation bonds

Alaska hasn't issued general obligation bonds in nearly 20 years. If state government had made better use of this financing option for capital projects, the fiscal problems we now face could have been mitigated and more money would have gone into the Permanent Fund.

Instead, each year Alaska expenditures for capital projects range wildly from $100 up to $700 million, thus placing extraordinary stresses on the human resources dedicated to managing capital projects.

Proposition A contains provides $500 million for veterans' home mortgages. The mortgage program has operated successfully with a worthwhile gain on investment. It is a small benefit for the sacrifice made by Alaska's many veterans.

Bond proposition B provides $227 million for transportation and harbor projects put forth by lawmakers looking after local interests. B is especially important to Juneau and Southeast Alaska because it would provide much needed upgrades for Juneau's harbors along with other harbors in Southeast Alaska. A yes vote will secure additional moneys through federal matching funds.

Proposition C provides funding for $237 million in school construction throughout the state and includes needed funds for the university, including $9 million for the research facility for the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, which is joined with the NOAA/NMFS facility to be constructed at Lena Point. The bond package also contributes $9 million in funding for other K-12 schools throughout Southeast Alaska.

Alaska must do a better job of keeping up with the capital needs of its schools. If the state had made a stronger commitment over the years to adequately fund education, a bond in the magnitude of Proposition C would not have been necessary. If this bond package fails to pass, some of the projects it covers will likely fall under court order further contributing to the fiscal gap and taking us one step closer to an income tax.

Don Smith

dssmith@juneauempire.com

586-1428



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