Murkowski sworn in as state's eighth governor

Posted: Tuesday, December 03, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- Frank Murkowski was sworn in as the eighth governor of Alaska during a ceremony here at Centennial Hall Monday.

Shortly taking the oath of office -- administered by Alaska Supreme Court Justice Walter Carpeneti -- the Republican governor said the state is well situated to enjoy the fruits of GOP control both statewide and nationally.

''For the first time in a long time there is unity in the House and Senate, not only in Juneau but in Washington as well,'' Murkowski said. ''And never before have the stars been so in alignment.''

The 69-year-old Murkowski promised to restore the optimism of an earlier generation and said his administration will be ''dedicated, experienced and accountable to all Alaskans.''

Harkening back to the campaign rhetoric of greater resource development to fuel the state's economic engine, Murkowski said his administration will ''lead a rebirth and renewal of our state.''

''Today, we re-dedicate ourselves to an Alaska that lives up to the statehood promise of a productive government built on a foundation of resource wealth,'' Murkowski said.

Alaska provides about 17 percent of the nation's domestic oil supply and during the campaign Murkowski pledged to spur more oil development.

Oil accounts for about 80 percent of the state's revenues and as production declines -- it is about half of its 1988 peak of 2 million barrels per day -- so too do state revenues.

Murkowski had pledged to pursue policies that lead to a 3 percent increase in oil production beginning in 2005.

North Slope oil production -- that is, the oil flowing through the trans-Alaska pipeline -- is expected to dip below 1 million barrels per day but prices are anticipated to be high, according to a state Department of Revenue forecast released last week.

As governor, Murkowski will have to submit his proposed state budget to the Legislature by mid-December. During a press conference on Monday, he gave no indication about what he will propose.

Murkowski took the oath of office with his wife, Nancy, at his side and former Gov. Walter J. Hickel nearby on the stage. Lt. Gov. Loren Leman was also sworn in on Monday.

Hickel, who served a term as GOP governor from 1966-1969 and then another on the Alaskan Independence ticket from 1990-1994, said Murkowski's pledge to increase resource development comes at the right time. Republicans control the Legislature, the Congress and the White House.

''I really think the stars have lined up both in America and here,'' Hickel said.

While the stars may be cooperating, the weather did not as thick fog hung over Juneau International Airport keeping most aircraft from landing.

Leman's plane was diverted to Sitka on Sunday and he finished the last leg of the trip in a chartered helicopter that arrived just hours before the ceremony, he said.

''I had made arrangements to be inaugurated in Sitka. I figured time was running out,'' Leman said.

Hundreds of well-wishers, politicians and government workers attended the hour-long ceremony but empty seats were abundant. Carpeneti administered the oath of office in the place of state Supreme Court Justice Robert Eastaugh, who was originally supposed to administer the oath of office but was kept out by the weather. Also fogged out of Juneau were Leman's brother, Butch, and former Gov. Bill Sheffield, Murkowski spokesman John Manly said.

Murkowski becomes governor after serving 22 years as Alaska's junior senator. The governor's resignation from that post was delivered to the U.S. Senate by an aid just minutes before he took his oath.

The Republican governor has 30 days to fill the vacancy but must wait five days before naming his replacement. Murkowski gave no indication about who would be named.

Soon after taking office Murkowski signed three executive orders that he said were part of the transition process.

One order instituted a hiring and out-of-state travel freeze for state employees and blocked the granting of personal service contracts for state government until Jan. 31. Another ordered internal performance audits for all executive branch departments.

Murkowski also signed an order that would make Attorney General Gregg Renkes the lieutenant governor if Leman leaves office before his term is up.

Former Gov. Tony Knowles signed a similar order when he took office, said Knowles spokesman Bob King.

Knowles attended the inaugural ceremony on Monday along with former Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer, who lost in the Nov. 5 election to Murkowski.

Knowles did not deliver a speech to the crowd and immediately after it ended he, his wife Susan, and former chief of staff David Ramseur left for a flight back to Anchorage.

Knowles, a Democrat, left office after serving two terms and is widely seen as a likely candidate in two years for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Murkowski. But Knowles has never said whether he will run.

Murkowski is the Republican Party's first elected governor since Jay Hammond in 1974. Hammond served two terms.

Hickel won his second term as an Alaskan Independence Party candidate but later changed his registration to Republican after taking office.

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