(JUNEAU)- After Governor Murkowski unveiled his State of the State Address tonight, House Majority leaders said that they look forward to working closely and cooperatively with the new administration as they also work on a similar agenda that contains a variety of their own concepts.
"We fully support the new Governor, and we will actively pursue ways, as a separate branch of the government, to resolve Alaska's tough issues," Speaker Kott said. "We are confident that our work will complement and support that of Governor Murkowski, as we also strive to lead our state and be accountable for our actions. Above all, we will listen and respond to the people's wishes."
In response to the first phase of the governor's five-year plan, Finance Committee Co-Chairman John Harris (R-Valdez) agreed with the governor that spending should be controlled before any other fiscal measures.
"Probably the first thing we have to do to gain the confidence of the people of the State of Alaska," Rep. Harris said, "is to make sure they don't think we're going to put the budget out of control."
The Majority Leaders stated that they look forward to reviewing the administration's budget and seeing recommendations for creating a more efficient government. They said they want to allow the administration enough time to thoroughly review the existing government, and, according to Speaker Kott, "evaluate every service one by one."
The Leadership said they support Governor Murkowski's plan for enhancing state revenue through additional resource development and increased oil production. House leaders stated a willingness to work with the Alaska Congressional Delegation on the opening of ANWR and on the construction of a gas pipeline.
"Alaska needs this for its economic viability," Finance co-Chair Representative John Harris
(R-Valdez) said, "and it will certainly encourage investment in our state," Rep. Harris said.
While they agreed long-term economic viability is important, the Majority Leaders said they will pursue ways to create immediate economic opportunities for the Alaskan people. Speaker Kott asserted that promoting industries that have served Alaskans for a long time, such as timber, fishing, and tourism, will jump start the economy right away. "We also want to create an environment friendly to new businesses," he said. "We want to ask new questions and draw in new industries that tap our greatest and most renewable resource - our people."
The Leadership also responded to the governor's plans for improving educational opportunities, simplifying the permitting process, and managing the Permanent Fund:
Education: "Education of our youth is our top priority. We will work steadfastly alongside the governor to assure that no child gets left behind in this state, and we believe that this is important in bridging the Urban/Rural Divide." The caucus will support the development of regional learning centers and innovative education programs; work to balance education with local culture; and support University of Alaska teaching schools and vocational training.
Permitting: Leadership supports the transfer of the permitting function to the Department of Natural Resources. "This will streamline costs and decrease the amount of time it takes to get necessary permits for resource development," Kott said. "It's an important consolidation that may help speed the process of developing revenue streams."
Permanent Fund: "We hope to look at many options to manage the people's money wisely," said Rep Harris. Speaker Kott said he is interested in seeing how new jobs can be brought into the state.
Speaker Kott acknowledged that there are many tough issues facing the state right now; however, there are more opportunities than problems. "It's no longer the last frontier: It's the New frontier."
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"Probably the first thing we have to do... is to make sure (Alaskans) don't think we're going to put the budget out of control"
01-23-03: House Finance Co-Chair Representative John Harris explains why he agrees with Governor Murkowski's plan to first control spending for the budget before any other measures to fix the fiscal gap.