Ulmer says families would be focus of her administration

Posted: Sunday, June 23, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Parents could use a rating system to pick their child-care provider, state funding for schools would keep up with inflation, and prescription drug costs would go down.

Those are among the initiatives that Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer says she would push if she became Alaska's governor.

''People ask me why I want to be the next governor of Alaska. Let there be no doubt. As governor, I will make Alaska the best place to raise a family,'' Ulmer said Thursday in what was billed as her first major policy speech of the campaign.

Ulmer spoke to about 100 supporters at an Anchorage park.

Over the past seven years, she said, the Knowles administration has made striking improvements for children and families through programs such as Denali KidCare, which provides health insurance for children and pregnant women in working families. She said she wants to continue the effort with:

-- Legislation to give schools more predictable state funding. Over the past 10 years, the base funding for schools has effectively shrunk by 20 percent because of inflation, according to her campaign. She told the crowd that she proposes an annual adjustment to the funding formula to keep up with inflation.

-- An ''all-star'' rating system for child-care facilities. It would be voluntary but useful to parents trying to pick a safe and nurturing place, Ulmer said. Child-care centers with high ratings could use it to market their program. Twenty-one states and Washington, D.C., have rating systems.

-- A new approach to curbing prescription drug costs through negotiations with drug companies. Thirty-two states have programs addressing drug costs.

U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski, a Republican running for governor, has not supported policies that help families, Ulmer said.

''If Frank Murkowski cares about the working families of Alaska, why did he vote against raising the minimum wage 11 times? Eleven times!'' Ulmer said.

He also voted against expanding Medicare, student loan incentives, Head Start programs, credits to employers who offer child care, and prescription drug benefits, Ulmer said.

That's negative campaigning and may be a distortion of the senator's record by including procedural votes, said Dan Saddler, Murkowski's campaign spokesman.

Asked whether Murkowski supported an increase in the minimum wage, Saddler said that was not necessarily the way to address poverty.

''If it was possible to make everyone millionaires by a vote of the Senate, we'd be there,'' Saddler said.

Ulmer said Murkowski's voting record was fair game, and her spokesman, Jason Moore, said procedural votes also can kill or move legislation.

Murkowski must make it past fellow Republican Wayne Ross in the August primary to face off with Ulmer in November.

Ross said Ulmer's ideas may get her a few votes but do nothing to address the big issues, such as the state fiscal gap.

''Are they winging it, or what is going on?'' Ross asked. ''What's taken her so long to come up with her fiscal plan?''

Ulmer said she plans to roll out her positions on major issues over the summer, including her ideas on solving the fiscal gap.

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