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Expanding Alaska's Economic Opportunities

Image by Bud Curtis

In a young state like Alaska, the Legislature has an important responsibility to foster economic development. The 22nd Alaska Legislature took this responsibility to heart this session, and passed legislation that continues to build an environment in which private industry and energy can use the state's assets to create wealth for its residents.

Taking advantage of demand for clean, efficient fuels, the Majority worked to encourage development of a new pipeline to bring natural gas from the North Slope to market. Dedicating state funds to prepare for right-of-way lease applications; throwing legislative support to pipeline routes and development plans most likely to bring Alaskans jobs, state revenue and new industry; and fostering frank discussions among all stakeholders, the Legislature involved itself early in the process to represent and advocate for the people's stake in the development of North Slope gas.

Seeking to extend the prosperity from North Slope oil, the Legislature also supported exploration and development of the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, funding an educational effort to build public awareness of the need to bring Alaska's oil to America. Legislation was also passed to make it easier for oil companies now operating in the state to renew leases for longer terms and with less regulatory paperwork.

The Majority committed substantial resources to build and improve Alaska's highways and roads, and to improve and transfer many ports to private ownership. By issuing bonds to fund $450 million in maintenance and upgrades at Anchorage and Fairbanks international airports, the Legislature ensures the facilities can keep pace with the state's expanding air cargo and related industries. And by investing in improved water, wastewater and other utility systems across the state, the Majority provides infrastructure to support better conditions for working and living in rural Alaska.

The Majority won passage of significant new environmental protection legislation extending the state's model oil spill prevention and response laws to non-tanker ships and the Alaska Railroad, which will increase public confidence that Alaska can develop and deliver its resources to market safely and efficiently.

The session saw passage of several bills making technical changes to the state's business statutes to improve the climate for commerce. These include clarifying terms of innovative methods of financing public facility development, modernizing the trust, insurance and banking industries, and refining state community property laws.

The Legislature also made significant process in privatization, meeting the state's prison overcrowding crisis by authorizing a private prison in Kenai that will not only bring construction and operations jobs to Alaskans, but long-term benefits to the entire state in the form of a safer society.

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