Leman says subsistence and fiscal gap likely to go unresolved

Posted: Thursday, December 20, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- Resolving the state's long-festering subsistence controversy and a plan to close a $1 billion hole in the state budget are unlikely to emerge this legislative session, said Senate Majority Leader Loren Leman.

A proposed constitutional amendment on subsistence offered by Gov. Tony Knowles probably won't change the position of staunch opponents in the state Senate, Leman said.

Senators appear to be evenly split, and a two-thirds majority is necessary for passage.

He also noted that the committee didn't agree on proposed technical changes to the federal law on subsistence.

''Everybody's going to have to give,'' Leman said, including sports groups and the Alaska Federation of Natives.

Leman, a Republican from Anchorage, is running for his party's nomination as lieutenant governor. Leman said he wants to establish a better relationship between the executive branch and the GOP-controlled Legislature.

He said Democrat Gov. Tony Knowles has not worked well with the Legislature and so tough issues such as subsistence and closing the fiscal gap will remain unresolved for officeholders in 2003.

Knowles is in the last of his two terms as governor and is barred by term limits from running again. During the entire Knowles administration, Republicans controlled the Legislature.

In January, Knowles is expected to offer up a voter initiative to make the state constitution comply with federal law on subsistence. Federal managers took over subsistence on federal lands and waters because the state did not grant a rural priority to subsistence fish and game.

On fiscal issues, Leman complained Knowles budget proposes a 7 percent increase in spending despite revenue forecasts that project a $1.1 billion deficit next year.

Alaska needs to increase revenues as the state's $2.8 billion reserve account is drained, but it's unlikely this Legislature will approve a comprehensive plan to do so, Leman said.

''I don't think it has to be done this year. ... It'll be incumbent on the next Legislature,'' Leman said.

Sen. Robin Taylor, of Wrangell; former House Speaker Gail Phillips, of Homer; and Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin are also running for the Republican nomination as lieutenant governor.

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