Alaska editorial: Vote 'No' on ballot measures on Tuesday

Posted: Friday, November 03, 2006

This editorial appeared in the Kenai Peninsula Clarion:

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With all the hype going on about who will be our next governor, voters also should decide where they stand on the two ballot measures in the Nov. 7 general election. On the surface, both measures sound appealing, but voters should take a second look.

Ballot Measure 1: This initiative would reduce the maximum length of regular legislative session from 121 days to 90 days. This sounds terrific, but how would the measure improve government?

During the legislative session, it seems most of the lawmaking takes place at the end. Following that logic, it would make more sense to have them do their work in 90 days instead in 121 days.

But think of the expensive special sessions that routinely follow the regular session. Ballot Measure 1 does nothing to reduce those special sessions; in fact, approval of the measure could result in more frequent special sessions in order for lawmakers to accomplish what they need to do. Those special sessions carry a heftier price tag than regular sessions.

The main reason, however, not to cut length of the regular session is that it would cut the amount of time the public has to participate in the legislative process. That shorter timeframe also could lead to bad legislation because bills might not be given the careful consideration they deserve in the rush to beat the clock.

While there may be plenty of ways to improve the legislative process, giving Alaskans less time to respond to what ultimately affects them is not the answer - at least right now. And until the Legislature can prove they can act in our state's best interest in the current allotted 121 days without going into at least one special session, why should we give them the opportunity to take it any further at our expense?

The concept is a good one; the timing is not. We think this idea is one that needs some tweaking before we can convince residents it's ready for a vote.

Ballot Measure 2: This initiative, which supporters call "The Alaska Gas Line Now Act," is aimed at getting a gas line built sooner rather than later by taxing large North Slope gas reserves until a gas pipeline system is built. The tax would go away once the gas line is up and running.

Proponents of the measure call it an incentive because to delay the gas line with a reserves tax in place would be costly; opponents say it unfairly punishes oil companies and sends the message that Alaska is not open for business. Plus, the measure likely would lead to costly and lengthy litigation, which would result in a delay in the gas line.

Experts are on both sides of the debate, but a new report from an economist at the Institute of Social and Economic Research indicates that, at best, passage of Ballot Measure 2 is a risky proposition. The fact is no one knows for sure how the oil companies will respond if the measure is passed.

Alaskans have sound reasons for not wanting to do the oil companies any favors; those reasons date back at least to the Exxon Valdez oil spill, but others are far more current. No one wants to give away the farm as a gas line deal is negotiated. But if Alaskans really desire a gas line, Ballot Measure 2 is not the way to get it built.

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