Monday, May 29, 2006

Tony Knowles Launches Gubernatorial Bid

After weeks of speculation, the expected happened, as discussed in a previous post. Late this afternoon (May 29th) KTUU reported that former Democratic Governor Tony Knowles (pictured at left, courtesy of his campaign website) will launch a bid to lead the state again, seeking his third term as governor. Knowles will reportedly file the official paperwork tomorrow. The move by Knowles follows Governor Frank Murkowski's announcement Friday he will run for re-election.

Knowles is seeking the office to make sure a natural gas pipeline is constructed and to bring integrity back to the office of governor. Under Alaska's Constitution, a governor cannot serve more than two consecutive terms, but after taking one term off, can run and serve again.

After serving three terms on the Anchorage Assembly during the 1970s, Knowles served as Mayor of Anchorage from 1981-1987, a period of recession. Despite this downturn, his most memorable accomplishment during this time was his work on Anchorage's trail system rather than growing the economy. He served as governor from 1994-2002 during another economic slowdown, defeating Republican challenger Jim Campbell by a narrow margin in 1994 and substitute Republican challenger Robin "Write-In" Taylor by a wide margin in 1998 after the original Republican challenger John Lindauer melted down during the campaign due to a potpourri of personal and ethical problems. Note that the entry on Tony Knowles omits mention of Taylor's presence in the 1998 race.

Here's a condensed list of Knowles' gubernatorial accomplishments from

1). Knowles was chair of the Western Governor's Association in 1997, two-term chair of the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission, and a member of the Pew Oceans Commission (POC). His membership in the POC caused him later problems due to the anti-fishing industry stance taken by that organization.

2). During his tenure, Knowles established Denali Kid Care, which provided basic health care for 25,000 children and 5,000 pregnant women. The National Child Welfare League named Knowles as their Child Advocate of the Year in 1998.

3). A strong supporter of the role the Alaska National Guard plays in responding to state emergencies and national defense, Knowles was recipient of the Guard's Pro Patria award and the 2001 Charles Dick Silver Medal of Merit.

4). Governor Knowles forged the "Millennium Agreement", a government-to-government agreement with tribes to foster rural delivery of services and economic development. He earned special recognition by the National Congress of American Indians in 2001 and the Alaska Federation of Natives Denali Award, the highest award given to a non-native.

5). Knowles pushed Canadian officials to adopt his "safe passage" principle to protect Pacific salmon and their freshwater habitat, leading to the successful negotiation of the first coast wide salmon treaty in decades.

Note what's conspicuously absent: Measures designed to promote economic growth. Other than the "safe passage" principle, which, by protecting freshwater salmon habitat, may have benefitted the fishing industry, no serious economic growth measures are listed. As a result, the state started ringing up annual deficits late in his second term, culminating in a $1 billion deficit in 2002.

And how did Governor Knowles propose to resolve the shortfall? Yep, you guessed it - a state income tax - twice, no less. He first proposed a state income tax in 1999, ostensibly to correct for the volatility of oil revenues (not that he did anything significant to diversify the economy and reduce our dependency on oil), then tried it again in 2002, in an effort to reduce the expected $1 billion deficit by $250 million. Knowles proposed an income tax based on the federal system, with generous exemptions and marginal rates on taxable income ranging from 2 percent up to as high as 7.7 percent on very large earnings.

However, this was hardly as progressive as it sounds. His proposal was to take a percentage of one's Federal tax liability, not income. Tax liability is not exclusively income-dependent; it's also deduction-dependent. So someone who makes $100,000 and loads up on Federal deductions could have paid less state tax than someone making $50,000 who cannot qualify for a bunch of Federal deductions. In addition, any change in Federal tax liability would automatically change state income tax revenue regardless of the state's needs. Tony Knowles' plan would have mirrored and reflected all the inequities of the Federal income taxation system. Tony Knowles has yet to figure out what several Alaskan Democrats already understand - you can't tax your way to prosperity.

In August 1997, Canadian fishermen held the Malaspina ferryboat and its passengers hostage in Prince Rupert harbor for three days. While there was little Knowles could have done, he could have issued some stronger statements against it and threatened economic consequences for Canadians. We needed a Teddy Roosevelt, and got a Jimmy Carter.

So now the same man who was a no-growth mayor for six years and a no-growth governor for eight years wants us to sent him back to Juneau for four more years. Four more years of more "no growth"? Four more years of dreaming up more taxation schemes? How can an ex-governor best known for bike trails and Indian treaties ensure a fair gas pipeline deal for Alaskans when even someone with the expertise and connections of a Frank Murkowski finds it diffcult?

This sets up a possible retread vs. retread race for November. You just know that insiders will try to maneuver the respective retreads into the catbird seats during the primary elections in August. Already the insiders have apparently induced former Assembly Member Dan Kendall (who I think, based on his Assembly service, is a stand-up guy) into challenging conservative incumbent Nancy Dahlstrom (pictured above left) for her House seat in the Republican primary. Not satisified with having stripped Dahlstrom of much of her privileges and power for having kept a campaign promise to her constituents, the Republican insiders are now trying to run her out of the House altogether. On KTUU, Kendall claimed her defiance of the Republican caucus "weakened" her effectiveness. Does that mean expediency is more important than integrity? Despite Kendall's qualifications, Eagle River needs to see through this scheme and return Dahlstrom to Juneau. They can't afford to let House Speaker John Harris (R-Valdez) determine who will represent them.

Like Frank Murkowski, Tony Knowles has had his day in the sun, and it's time for us to retire both of them and bring in some new blood. Sarah Palin and John Binckley haven't bowed out of the Republican race. And even though Ethan Berkowitz announced today that he will switch to the Lieutenant Governor's race, Eric Croft is still in. Then there's Andrew Halcro. Retire the retreads in August.

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