As a veteran of Alaska's Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, Palin is well-prepared to tackle the challenges facing Alaska. During her first 100 days in office, she reinforced her immediate priorities: the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, early funding for education, a balanced budget including temporary relief for the unexpected PERS/TRS (Public Employee/Teacher Retirement Systems) burden, work force development, and comprehensive ethics reform legislation. Area Development recently reviewed these issues with Governor Palin.
On the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act. Eighty-nine days into office, my natural gas pipeline team submitted our gasline legislation, called the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act (AGIA), to the Alaska legislature. The legislation will act as a vehicle to get a natural gas pipeline built and bring the state's substantial gas reserves to market. We understand that Alaska's gas is part of the nation's energy plan and will provide a safe, secure, and domestic supply of natural gas to the rest of the nation.
In order to expedite the gasline, the AGIA offers a number of inducements for those who hold gas leases and for those who want to build the line. In return, the state will provide a matching capital contribution and insist on the state's must-haves: project benchmarks, gas for Alaskans, expansion capabilities, and jobs for Alaskans. The state is committed to ensuring that Alaskans will be trained and ready to build the gasline. During my recent travels to Washington, D.C., I received encouragement for the AGIA from Alaska's congressional delegation, FERC officials, and members of the Bush administration. We look forward to continue working with the legislature to ensure passage of the AGIA during this legislative session.
On healthcare. As promised during my state-of-the-state address, I signed Administrative Order 232 on February 15, 2007 creating the Alaska Health Strategies Planning Council. The council will spend almost a year finding innovative solutions to effectively provide access to healthcare and help reduce the costs of healthcare for Alaskans. The council must report back to me with solutions by January 1, 2008.
On ethics reform. Keeping my campaign promise to govern in an open and transparent fashion, I did present an ethics bill to the legislature on January 24, 2007. The bill tightens ethics within the executive branch, but touches upon all public servants. This ethics reform bill mandates more detail in financial disclosure, encourages electronic access, further defines conflicts of interest, bans gifts from lobbyists, and tightens certain employment restrictions after leaving office. I certainly expect a comprehensive ethics bill to pass both houses of the legislature.
On the budget. A budget that controls the growth of government, forces the state to live within its means, and encourages a healthy savings for the state's future is another priority of mine. Recently, I submitted amended budgets that include funding to restore the longevity bonus program, a community revenue-sharing program, and full funding of the education foundation formula. The budget also commits nearly $500 million in new dollars for PERS/TRS relief throughout the state during this time of budget surplus.
From the moment I took office, I directed all state agencies to look for efficiencies and savings. Through a collective effort, we were able to reduce general fund spending in the operating budget alone by over $124 million. The capital budget maximizes federal funding and focuses on the administration's priorities. I will continue to work with the legislature to craft a final budget that meets the needs of Alaskans. And I have pledged to find more efficiencies and savings during my term in office.