25 August 2006

What Changes are Necessary?

The Governor seems intent on calling another special session. It's not going over so well:

House Judiciary Committee chair Lesil McGuire says the House leadership has told the governor they are not interested in another go-around on the same contract, with its decades-long lock-in of tax rates, the surrendering of the state's right to sue and other controversial provisions.

“I think what you're seeing is a real reluctance to go back and just sort of beat our head against the wall over and over again with the same set of problems. So the hope is that this governor would present a new set of terms to the Legislature, take the feedback that we've given in the last year and put that to constructive use,” said McGuire, R-Anchorage.
So here's the question. What will it take for the legislature to willingly return to Juneau at the height of campaign season? What changes need to be made for the contract to make more progress than it has made either of the two previous times?

(This discussion, of course, leaves aside the administration's failure to submit proposed changes by the deadline earlier this week. The legislature almost extended the deadline and then didn't during the last session and yet the administration is still late.)

The first major issue is the freezing of oil and gas taxes, the "fiscal certainty." It appears to be a non-starter for most lawmakers. Is there a compromise on the horizon?

The second issue is Alaskan access to the gas. Sure, the proposed deal allows for take-off points in Alaska but this seems to have emerged as a big deal.

And there's a little disagreement about the route.

Looking at all that (and I've quickly made this list based on my relatively cursory knowledge of the issues at hand), it's hard to see what changes could be made in the next month or so that are both acceptable to the producers and acceptable to the legislature. Right now, I'd put good odds on the legislature convening, listening to the governor talk, and then adjourning sine die.

Poor Frank Murkowski. Only 19 per cent of his party support him and the one lawmaker who came out in support of his plan - Ben Stevens - is an even lamer duck than he was in the last special session.

On the other hand, how united are Republican lawmakers? Are they all going to be busy currying favor with Sarah Palin and thus rejecting whatever the governor comes up with? Or, are they so frightened of what Palin could do that they'll take whatever the governor gives them?

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