Thumbs up to the Republicans and Democrats who tried to reach across party lines in the Alaska House of Representatives and build a coalition that would replace the GOP caucus. The bipartisan coalition was smacked down almost immediately as Republicans once again took control of the majority on Monday. The caucus system, with its closed-door meetings and punishment of members who vote against the party line, entrenches the powerful and robs dissenting lawmakers of what little leverage they might have.
Particularly those Republicans who aimed to shake the system up a bit deserve credit for trying. Let's hope they continue to reach across the aisle once the Legislature goes back into session. And constituents need to raise a stink if GOP leaders decide to punish those who tried to do the right thing by building the nonpartisan coalition. Lawmakers should have the freedom to serve their constituents instead of party bosses.
Thumbs up to Gov. Frank Murkowski for calling on legislators to pour an additional $7.1 million into substance-abuse programs. Funding cuts in the last couple of years, including those by the administration, have been hobbling agencies that deal with drug and alcohol problems. The money is desperately needed in a state that outpaces others with its rate of substance abuse.
Murkowski has called for $1.1 million to go toward the prevention of fetal alcohol syndrome, which results from mothers drinking during pregnancy. FAS is just starting to get the attention it deserves. Many don't realize how devastating the syndrome can be to families; nor are they aware of the high percentage of prison inmates who are believed to have FAS. Drug- and alcohol-related problems cost the state some $600 million each year, so preventative funds could save the state considerable money in the long-run.
(Thumbs down for Murkowski's tabloid.) While the state has been hard-pressed to fund programs that serve the public, the governor managed to find $24,000 to make himself look good. That's at least how much it cost to produce a chirpy tabloid called "Breaking New Trails," which was distributed in the Juneau Empire, the Anchorage Daily News and the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. The publication is basically a 12-page plug for how great the governor and his folks are doing their jobs.
While $24,000 is but a tiny fraction of the state budget and Murkowski is hardly the first politician to produce this kind of newsletter, one has to ask whether this is an appropriate way to spend public money when the budget gap is easily the state's biggest issue. Funny, too, how the articles left out all the negative public reaction to ethical scandals or Murkow-ski's less popular actions, such as cutting seniors' longevity bonus. Murkowski spokeswoman Becky Hultberger pointed out that these issues had already "been well-covered in the media." Hultberger's comment sums up why there was no point in spending state money on this overblown ad for the governor.
The Juneau Empire
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