Alaska State Legislature
Senator Robin L. Taylor
Chairman, Judiciary Committee
Vice Chairman, Resources Committee
Juneau, Alaska 99801-1182
(907) 465-3873 Fax: (907) 465-3922
COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES, US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Field Hearing - Anchorage, Alaska, March 31,1999
By Senator Robin Taylor
Good morning Mr. Chairman. For the record, I am Senator Robin Taylor, Alaska State legislature. Mr. Chairman, all four of the bills before you today contain the same flaws. If these flaws were not such significant deviations from the Constitution and good public policy I would not be so concerned.
The Framers of our Constitution set forth 3 branches of Government. First, the Congress to set policy, pass laws, and make all appropriations. Second, the Executive branch to carry out those policies and enforce those laws. Third, the Judiciary to judge those actions and to protect the Constitution from violation by either of the other 2 branches.
All four of these bills make a direct off budget appropriation that is perpetual, and, the appropriation goes directly to a politically appointed Secretary of the Interior and through that office directly to the Governor of each state. Our Alaska Constitution, just like yours, provides that the legislature makes all appropriations.
Our Governor does not have the power to appropriate one dime nor does President Bill Clinton. Yet, in all four of these bills, our Governor would have the total authority to approve all planned expenditures and to write his own unilateral plan which would need only the approval of the Secretary of the Interior. These bills will generate up to $150 million for expenditure by Alaska's Governor without any legislative appropriation or authorization. If this is such a good idea, why did the Framers of the United States Constitution and all 50 state constitutions give the total authority for appropriations to the legislative branch?
Furthermore, these bills allow an outgoing Governor and Secretary of Interior to establish a planned program for 5 years, thus totally preventing a new Governor from changing that scheme of expenditures until the second year of his or her second term. It is no wonder that these bills are endorsed by the National, Western and Southern Governors' Conferences. Those Governors would get hundreds of millions to spend as they see fit, without any interference from those "pesky" legislators. Every place the word Governor appears in each bill should be replaced with the words "The State Legislature".
Next, I must inquire when the purchase of private property by the Government became the highest priority among all federal expenditures? It is of no small concern to those of us reviewing these bills that acquisition of privately owned land for governmental purposes is above defense expenditures. I think the defense budget still requires an annual appropriation by Congress but these bills will provide a perpetual annual off budget appropriation of up to $1.5 billion a year for what the sponsors seem to believe is a higher need than even our National Defense. Apparently, many in Congress have forgotten that Alaska was invaded and occupied in World War II. We still place defense as a high priority.
Mr. Chairman, in your editorial on Saturday, March 27, 1999 you repeatedly stated that these OCS funds would go directly to the states. Unfortunately, even your bill gives most of the money to Governors to set up their own 5-year schemes for how it will be spent. More sadly, significant funds would also flow directly to the most fanatical of the environmental organizations in the form of grants. In fact, the main thrust of each bill is to buy up private land that government wants for alleged "unmet needs" and to "secure habitat" for kangaroo rats in California, green tree frogs near Petersburg, AK, a subspecies of house fly near Sacramento, CA, spotted owls from California to Canada, and marbled murrelets in Washington and Oregon. In addition, it proposes to buy out every cabin, ranch, and homestead found within the boundaries of federally declared parks, refuges, wilderness areas, etc.
Alaska has very little private land ownership. less than 1/3 of 1% is privately owned I have provided the committee with a pie chant to illustrate the dilemma that these bills cause in our state. If only 50% of the funding coming to Alaska is used to acquire land and the action plan only targets 5% of the remote private land, there would be over $12,000 per acre each year available for these purchases. I own 78 acres of fee simple property inside the Stikine - LeConte wilderness area. I acquired this old homestead over the last 20 years and paid approximately $1,000 an acre. My dream is to build a camp for physically challenged youngsters to have an opportunity to enjoy this wonderful area. If I am offered $936,000..... will I become a "willing seller"? Because it is less than $1 million, Congress will never hear about the purchase.
Using the example above, where I used only 50% of the funds contemplated for Alaska, at the end of twenty years, there would be no remote private property remaining in this state. Every remote property owner will have made a huge profit by becoming a "willing seller".
If the price were high enough, I venture that there isn't a member of Congress whose home, ranch, or condo would not be up for sale. The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trust Fund has purchased over 600,000 acres in Alaska from "willing sellers" who happily sold their land based on its "recreation values", "wilderness values", "conservation values", and other pseudo non-quantifiable allegations of value. What if the state's action plan targets acquisition of my land, stating that my land could be ideal habitat for the last remaining colony of the tiny red-bellied millennium worms? This 1/2 inch long worm only appears during the light of the moon January 1st every 1000 years and they are just certain it will come to the surface in my hay field this New Years Eve. Does the price of my land go up? Does the federal and state agency harassment begin in earnest? Do I get any help from any source to resist these overwhelming powers? Do the physically challenged kids get a wilderness camp? No, we already know the answers to these questions. I will get forced off my land and another "willing sale" will have occurred. The millennium worm, if it is even there, is safe. Another "unmet need" satisfied and another "alleged species" is protected. That is what each of these bills will do.
I learned a long time ago, don't make a bad bill better. Foolishly, I tried today, but no amendment will make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. My state needs those OCS funds.. We have a $1.2 billion budget deficit. We need money for Education, Public Safety, Roads, Electrical Interties, and Sewer and Water Projects.
There is no limitation on how this House appropriates and the full Congress spends OCS money. Each of the needs I have listed is real and is a direct impact of OCS activities in this state. Couldn't the states please use that money for what the states believe are their greatest needs? My state does not need another square inch of federal park land or state park land. We would, however, like to get rid of the honey buckets. We would like a few decent roads. We would like our kids to get a good education. Is that too much to ask before you coerce us into buying up and locking up more land into more parks in perpetuity?
Many believe Title III will provide discretionary funding for state departments of fish and game for good conservation practices. Unfortunately, this illusion is based upon the false belief that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game adheres to that standard. We Alaskans currently have a Department of Fish and Game that refuses to control predators and allows the decimation of caribou and moose populations. A prime example was the recent fiasco where the department used helicopters to capture over thirty wolves from the Forty-mile area and after radio collaring them, flew them to the Kenai Peninsula and located them near a protected caribou herd that is struggling for survival. The alleged reason for this transplant was to see if the new wolves acquire lice as quickly as the lice infested wolves that lived on the Kenai.
Over the last five years the department has spent over $500,000 with the American Academy of Sciences for a peer review of their wolf predator control program. While this review has been pending it has been used as the excuse for doing absolutely no predator control on wolves anywhere in the state. Direct grants of federal funds to this department without total state legislative oversight would be ill advised and inappropriate.
In fifteen years of serving in the House and Senate of Alaska, and having just completed a statewide race for Governor where I finished second, I have never during that entire period, had one fellow Alaskan ever ask me to spend money to manage bugs, snails, or frogs; nor has any Alaskan asked me to spend precious state dollars to buy or acquire one acre of private land to be used for more parks. Our unmet needs are exemplified daily in human suffering. Our unmet needs are the lack of water and sewer systems to prevent the spread of hepatitis A, B, & C Our habitat needs are found in substandard housing. Our social needs rank us among the highest in the Nation per capita for alcoholism, suicide, and teenage pregnancy to mention just a few.
With over 99% of the land mass of this state already locked up in governmental ownership, shouldn't we first address the essential human needs of Alaskans before we increase the size of the government estate. Please step back from this ill-conceived gratuity and direct that these OCS funds be given in block grants to the states to use as they see fit for their most essential needs. Thank you Mr. Chairman for inviting me to speak to you today.