Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/07/1995 01:40 PM CRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SJR 21 ANWR SPECIAL REVENUE FUND CHAIRMAN TORGERSON called the Senate Community & Regional Affairs Committee meeting to order at 1:40 p.m. and introduced SJR 21 as the first order of business. SENATOR DRUE PEARCE, prime sponsor of SJR 21, said members of the Senate and House were in Washington, D.C. the past weekend and she came away from Washington feeling like this is the year that Congress is going to act on allowing exploration and what is hoped will then be eventual development on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She added there is a sense of urgency because this is the "window of opportunity year," and she has been thinking for a period of time about how to deal with the revenues that will come in from ANWR when the time comes. SJR 21 proposes placing before the voters of the state at the next general election an amendment to the Constitution that would create a special revenue fund of the revenues coming in from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. These are the royalties from any future development except for the 50 percent share that's already required by Alaska's Constitution to go in the Alaska Permanent Fund. The resolution does not get into the question of whether there should be a 90/10 royalty split with the federal government, or whether there should be a 50/50 royalty split with the federal government. Senator Pearce said it is her personal belief that 50 percent of something is a lot better than 90 percent of nothing, but that is a decision that Congress will have to make. Senator Pearce said the legislature could appropriate the money that's in the fund only for assistance or aid to a municipality under a program of aid to local governments that would be established by law in Title 29, or, secondly, for the support of school construction and school major maintenance programs as is currently embodied in Title 14. She acknowledged that this is a dedication of funds, but she believes that it is a dedication of a special stream of funds. Senator Pearce said if ratified by the citizens of the state, there would be a mechanism in place before ANWR is explored and before development is a reality. She believes that being able to go back to Congress and letting them know how the state plans to use any revenues that the state receives will help get some teetering back at the Congressional level. Senator Pearce spoke to the funding problems municipalities have been facing in the last 10 years and the increased financial responsibilities they are being required to take on because of falling oil revenues. Number 095 SENATOR TORGERSON opened the meeting to public comment. CHARLES MCKEE, testifying from Anchorage, stated his opposition to SJR 21 because he believes it takes revenues away from the permanent fund and the state treasury and places them in the control of a very large municipality in the Arctic that has run up a very large debt burden. Number 125 BRAD PIERCE, Policy Analyst, Office of Management & Budget, stated there is no official Governor's position on SJR 21 except that it is "an interesting concept." Mr. Pierce said Governor Knowles is squarely behind the development of ANWR and has repeatedly expressed his strong support for full funding of education, as well as working out an equitable partnership with municipalities. However, linking these three concepts via a constitutional amendment is where the concerns arise. The basic concern is with dedicated funds, and the basic problem is that the particular interests of the education community and municipalities are elevated over other public service responsibilities. As much as the public education, they question whether it is in the state's interest to put it above everything else. Mr. Pierce believes this will run into the same kind of opposition that Governor Cowper's education endowment did when people begin to seriously examine the implications of giving school construction and maintenance a higher priority than road maintenance, village sanitation facilities, etc. Number 215 KEVIN RITCHIE, Executive Director, Alaska Municipal League, expressed the appreciation of the 118 member communities in the League for the introduction of SJR 21. He stated their support for the concept and the long-range planning process as one method of bringing municipalities to the table and talking about the long- term stability of the communities. Number 235 There being no further testimony on SJR 21, SENATOR TORGERSON asked for the will of the committee. SENATOR R. PHILLIPS moved that SJR 21 be passed out of committee with individual recommendations. SENATOR KELLY objected and stated he has never voted for a dedicated fund in 18 years and he is not going to start this year. A roll call was taken with the following result: Senators Phillips, Hoffman & Torgerson voted "Yea" and Senator Kelly voted "Nay." The Chairman stated the motion carried.