As lieutenant governor in a Murkowski administration, Gail Phillips said she would support construction of a road linking Skagway and Juneau as a means of securing the capital and legislative sessions in Southeast.
Phillips, the former Republican House speaker from Homer, was in Juneau on Tuesday for her sixth fund-raiser since announcing Oct. 1 that she would run for either governor or lieutenant governor next year.
She settled on the No. 2 spot when U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski announced his gubernatorial bid three weeks later. Other Republicans vying for a spot on the Murkowski ticket include state Sens. Robin Taylor of Wrangell and Loren Leman of Anchorage.
Phillips, who was born in Juneau, said in an interview that a hard link connecting Juneau with the highway system is required to settle the long-running capital controversy.
"I firmly believe that the issue of capital move will continue to plague Juneau until the rest of the people have a road to come in on," she said. "I support roads all over this state. I'm appalled that we go year after year after year without focusing on building at least one new road in the state. ...
"To me, Juneau is our capital. But equally important, Juneau needs to be accessible to the rest of Alaska."
She speculated that the amount of money Juneau has spent on fighting the capital move over the years would be enough to finish the suspended environmental impact statement on Juneau access.
Strikingly similar to comments made in Juneau in the past week by a variety of politically active residents, Phillips lamented the decline of civic virtue in Alaska.
"Since statehood, I think we misplaced two of the core values that made Alaska great: One, is caring for each other, and two, is a can-do attitude," she said.
"Yes, we can build a road from Juneau out. Yes, we can build a gas pipeline. At the same time, we can protect the environment."
A self-described "moderate conservative," Phillips is positioning herself as more centrist than Taylor and Leman, generally considered strong conservatives. Although she's morally opposed to abortion, she doesn't see a role for government in regulating it and doesn't believe it's much of an issue, anymore.
Phillips is also ahead of most Senate Republicans in pushing for a long-range fiscal plan to avert a $1 billion budget deficit in 2004. Another oil price spike is unlikely, and the state needs a statewide tax and the use of permanent fund "excess" earnings to supplement any further budget reductions, she said. A proposed constitutional amendment passed by the Senate last year, setting a spending cap for the state general fund, is "not looking forward to the future," she said.
But ideology won't matter as much in the lieutenant governor's race, she believes, as experience, geographical balance and the candidate's personal fit with Murkowski, the presumptive gubernatorial nominee and consensus front-runner.
Phillips, now 57, notes that she grew up in Nome, studied in Fairbanks and represented a Kenai Peninsula House district for 10 years, serving two consecutive terms as speaker.
Bill McAllister can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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