PPT session needs to stay in Juneau

Posted: Sunday, August 05, 2007

It's great that Gov. Sarah Palin has called a special session to address the state's petroleum profits tax, or PPT. Addressing the tax formula, which is reportedly coming up short of projections, should get the attention of all Alaskans, especially since it came under scrutiny when three former legislators were indicted on bribery and extortion charges in connection with the tax law.

But it's not whether the session should be held that concerns us as much as where it's held.

Palin has put the decision of the location of the session in the hands of legislators. Talking about the oil tax isn't going to be near as cut and dry as the one-day session held in Anchorage to address the SeniorCare program.

We hear her saying she's not trying to start a movement to shift the capitol north and west, something she says she has to keep repeating. Perhaps it's all the attempts over the years that have Alaskans wondering if she's trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

Palin said she wants the legislators' consideration for a site that has road access, which Juneau does not.

While we certainly applaud the governor for trying to provide opportunities for Alaskans to be more involved in their government, the opportunities have always been there — the people have not.

In this day and age, you can pick up the phone, send an e-mail or mail a letter to representatives. Problem is, whether it's the regular session or special, most of us aren't tuned in. It's easier to complain about government instead of making our voice heard to those who can do something about it. Then we chastise politicians when their votes differ from our opinions.

Would moving the special session to Anchorage change that? We seriously doubt it.

Whether the session is held near or far doesn't matter. While some would attend, most would not.

The bottom line is it would cost less to hold the special session in Juneau, especially since Alaska's oil tax system will not be a one-day affair.

The infrastructure to run effective, efficient government lies in Juneau — not Anchorage, not the Mat-Su, nor the Kenai Peninsula.

Senate President Lyda Green and House Speaker John Harris have until Sept. 4 to submit a recommendation for the location. Minority Leader Beth Kerttula already has made her decision, saying, "The governor is right in that it's incredibly important content, but we need to have the special session in Juneau. ... You don't want to make decisions like that when you're worrying about where you're going to have an office or where you're going to sleep."

The legislators hardly need any more distractions. The arrests of former lawmakers Vic Kohring of Wasilla and Bruce Weyhrauch and Pete Kott of Juneau on bribery and extortion charges have done plenty to get our attention and place a watchful eye on our representatives.

Now it's time to let the legislators focus on our future, and the PPT can do much to help. It's time to create "an environment here in Alaska of investment," Palin said, "to basically start anew."

The scandals have tainted the public's faith in their government somewhat, but we also know we have many good people standing up for Alaskans. It's time we get back to trusting them to do the job of making Alaska a better place to live. That focus should be addressed in Juneau.

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