Murkowski right to show restraint in giving funds to Arctic Power lobbying

Posted: Thursday, March 06, 2003

... (T)he next week or two in the Senate likely will see important movement in favor of those hoping to open a slice of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration.

Members of Alaska's congressional delegation, thwarted for years in their drive to allow responsible development in the coastal plain of the refuge, may soon try to work ANWR-opening language into a spending resolution in the Senate Budget Committee. Republicans hold a 12-11 edge on the committee, and the dozen GOP members appear to be on Alaska's side in this area.

But there's still a ways to go -- a vote on the Senate floor and a vote on a budget reconciliation bill to bring it all together -- so development's fate won't be known until the late summer or early fall, when the first real snow is already settling up north.

In the Senate, just 51 votes are needed to approve budget resolutions and reconciliation bills. Filibusters, which cannot be curtailed with anything less than 60 votes, are not allowed on such measures.

Heading into the 2004 election, however, positions should not be taken for granted.

That's why it is important that state funding continue for the lobbying group Arctic Power.

In the Alaska Legislature, the House Finance Committee ... (has) put forward a bill to grant $3 million to Arctic Power for a campaign to shore up wavering senators and perhaps convert others. The target list is fairly short: Gov. Frank Murkowski last month counted 48 firm supporters.

But with only two or three additional senators needed, the governor believes $3 million might be too much money for the state to give. He argues for responsible and targeted use of state funds and doesn't, as his spokesman said, want to take $3 million and just ''throw it at the problem.'' He also wants to make sure Arctic Power is getting all it can from other sources.

In these tight budget times, the governor is rightly demonstrating some restraint in an area near and dear to his beliefs and to Alaska's livelihood yet keeping the pressure on Congress. In this area, the Legislature should follow his lead.

-- Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Feb. 25

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