Senate Majority Leader Loren Leman says a resolution to the subsistence controversy and implementation of a long-range fiscal plan probably aren't achievable in the 2002 legislative session.
But as lieutenant governor, Leman said he could establish a closer connection between the executive and legislative branches.
Leman, a "pro-development, pro-family, taxpayer-friendly" Anchorage Republican who has spent 13 years in the Legislature, will give up his Senate seat next year in a bid to run with gubernatorial candidate Frank Murkowski, Alaska's junior U.S. senator.
Gov. Tony Knowles, a Democrat, must leave office in a year after serving the constitutional limit of two consecutive terms. Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer is running for governor.
Given that the administration has not worked well with the Legislature, tough issues probably will remain for office-holders in 2003, Leman said in an interview at the Empire on Tuesday.
The proposed constitutional amendment on subsistence that's being recommended to Knowles by an ad hoc committee probably won't change minds in the Senate, he said. Senators appear to be evenly split, and a two-thirds majority is necessary for passage.
The draft amendment says the Legislature "shall" establish the rural subsistence priority required by federal law, rather than "may," which means another constitutional amendment would be needed if the thrust of the law changed, Leman said. He also noted that the committee didn't agree on proposed technical changes to the federal law intended to create uniform definitions and avert more litigation.
"Everybody's going to have to give," Leman said, including sports groups and the Alaska Federation of Natives, which has insisted on "shall."
On the other hand, he said the committee made a bold step forward by proposing a secondary priority for urban residents with a tradition of subsistence uses of fish and game.
On fiscal issues, Leman complained of "substantial increases in spending" proposed by Knowles even as a revenue forecast shows a $1.2 billion deficit next year.
Leman said the state needs to increase revenue as reserves are drained but said he doesn't expect a comprehensive package in the upcoming legislative session.
"You're better off not to wait until the last minute," he said. "(But) I don't think it has to be done this year. ... It'll be incumbent on the next Legislature."
Leman said he doesn't feel any tension about the prospect of working with Republican Sen. Robin Taylor of Wrangell, another candidate for lieutenant governor. They will be joined in the party primary by former House Speaker Gail Phillips of Homer and Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin.
Murkowski said this week that he would be happy to run with any of them. Phillips has suggested that she's the centrist in the field. But Leman, while calling himself a "solid fiscal conservative" and "social conservative," said voting records won't show much difference among them.
"I don't think that there's a clear delineation there, unless someone wants to speculate about degree."
Taylor ran for governor in 1998 but Leman, a civil engineer who has worked in all regions of the state, didn't concede him any edge in name recognition among voters. All of the candidates must work to get better known, he said.
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