Lt. Governor Fran Ulmer addressed the first meeting of 2002 for the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce last week at the Riverside House. Buffeted by windy weather that delayed her arrival, the Lt. Governor wasted no time in getting to the issues that are forecasting a turbulent legislative session in Juneau. Ulmer said there may be no perfect solution for bridging Alaska's growing fiscal gap, and lawmakers, the administration, and the public shouldn't wait for one, but rather work together in a spirit of compromise that will allow businesses, big and small, to feel confident about where we are headed as a state.
Calling on the people to hold their elected officials feet to the fire, Ulmer said, "We've run out of time to put it off. We all hoped that it would come on somebody else's watch, somewhere out there; somebody else would have to make the hard decision. But given the size of our deficit, almost $900 million, and what is remaining in our savings accounts, this really is the time for the legislature to take action. Whether they do it or not, I hope has more to do with their long term sense of what is good for the state of Alaska then their short term sense of what will be good in November of 2002."
Contrary to recent industry studies Ulmer believes a gas pipeline is feasible and will be built, "I think we have to maintain a positive attitude about what is possible. It's just a question of getting the right alignment of interests between the producers, pipeline constructors, operators, state and federal government. We're fairly close, when they say we need a 15% rate of return and they're only at about 12 or 13% that sounds to me as though it's within the realm of the possible. Maybe it's not today, but it can be tomorrow. There are things that congress can do that can make this project happen, so I think it's way to early in '02 to have a negative attitude about this project," said Ulmer.
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