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Critics need to give new governor some room on budget math

Posted: Tuesday, December 03, 2002

It's been just over three weeks since the election. And in another three weeks the new governor must submit a state budget for the coming fiscal year.

Campaign promises and the hard work of putting out a budget now stand face to face. Words meet numbers.

To be fair, the team assembled by Gov.-elect Frank Murkowski does not have much time to put together a state budget that closes a fiscal gap projected (last) Tuesday to be $896 million. This first plan, therefore, will not likely reflect the complete desires of Alaska's new Republican governor.

But with a Legislature of the same party, expect the governor and his people to press quickly in the second year to reach the goals stated in the campaign.

''Our land has abundant resources -- and when we build access to those resources, we can generate the wealth needed to balance our budget, strengthen the permanent fund, support our schools and generate good-paying jobs for Alaska's families'' -- from a Murkowski campaign mailer.

Throughout the campaign, critics assailed Murkowski's math. Resource development, his central budget pillar, cannot alone balance the budget, they said. Murkowski, though, suggested resource development as one piece of a three-piece plan, the other two being ''controlling current state spending'' and ''prioritizing expenditures to allow for increases in education, public safety and transportation.'' Critics attacked that math, too.

Those critics should give the new governor some breathing room before going on the attack again. But in the second and later budgets Murkowski and his aides will be pressed hard -- and rightly so -- to show they can live up to their campaign statement of balancing the budget without implementing an income tax or using some earnings of the Alaska Permanent Fund.

''Some politicians will say anything to get elected'' -- from a Republican Party campaign mailer on behalf of Murkowski.

The new occupants of the executive branch must show that words they used to get elected actually have staying power. Or they must have the courage to tell us why they don't.

We'll check back in a year.

-- Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Nov. 29



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