"Egan Favors Contribution to Land Claims Settlement"

by Bob Mottram, Associated Press Writer

Southeast Alaska Empire, January 28, 1971, p.1

Juneau (AP) — Gov. William A. Egan said Wednesday he leans toward providing state funds for Native land claims settlement whether or not Congress requires it.

But he said that, should congress require a large financial contribution from the state—through overriding royalties on oil production—it should have a cut-off date.

Egan made the comment during a press conference. He said his administration is agreeable to revenue-sharing with native citizens to a maximum of $500 million over a period of years.

The state "would have to maintain a flexible attitude with regard to the amount of land that would be involved in any determination by Congress," he said.

"If legislation should be passed by Congress and not provide for revenue sharing," he said, "I might very well arrive at a conclusion that the state should appropriate a certain figure . . . as part of the settlement."

Egan suggested $75 million or $100 million "in a lump sum or over a period of years."

He said he feels the state has an obligation, "moral or legal or both," to participate in the settlement.

Addressing other matters, Egan said he foresees a good relationship between himself and the Republican-controlled Senate, is taking steps to prepare for possible flooding this year in Fairbanks, is reviewing the Bethel Heights housing situation and is nearly ready to appoint a reapportionment board.

The governor said he feels Senate members "have a real sense of need to work together in arriving at enactment of legislation in the best interest of the people. I don’t believe much political partisanship will raise its head this session."

He said he hopes to have the balance of his major legislation introduced by the middle of next week.

"I’m pleased the committees seem to be really down to business," he said. "As a matter of fact, they have been more ready than we have because of the mechanics of getting our legislation in a form to send down."

The governor said he has asked the Natural Resources Department to look into the Fairbanks flood potential, and has discussed the situation with the commissioners of public works and highways.

"I want the departments, before the spring thaw, to be ready to do whatever they might do to help alleviate the problem," he said. Installation of culverts in strategic locations, or erection of dikes, might help, he added.

Turning to the public housing project for low-income persons at Bethel, Egan said he doesn’t think "there is any question but that the project was not handled well from the beginning. We will be taking steps soon to pick it up and make improvements to meet the needs of the people who should be living there."

Problems with the project were revealed last week at a meeting of the House Commerce Committee, where it was reported that lack of water and sewer facilities, absence of roads, and structural problems had resulted in only about half of the 200 units being filled with low-income families.

The project was constructed with the participation of several federal agencies, and now is managed by the Alaska State Housing Authority. Egan said "there might be some funding available within AHSA" for improvements there.

Egan said the state now has the official 1970 census figures, on which reapportionment must be based, and he "will be appointing a reapportionment board within the next two weeks."

The governor said he opposes a one-house legislature for Alaska, which has been suggested by some House election districts that is expected to result from reapportionment.

However, he said he is "inclined to go along with the concept" of breaking up some major urban districts into neighborhood ones, and "would hope that the reapportionment board gives that kind of apportioning real consideration."

Egan said he expects to appoint another new commissioner sometime next week but did not reveal which position he referred to. There now are three commissioner posts still filled by those who held the jobs under the Keith Miller administration. They are fish and game, highways and education.

"The present commissioner of education has a contract that goes into August," Egan said. "And that’s a position where the board appoints and the governor approves or rejects. Fish and Game is essentially the same."

Egan said he is considering the possibility of proposing a constitutional amendment to eliminate a section prohibiting right of exclusive fishery. That’s the section that so far has blocked the state from prohibiting outside fishermen from flocking to Alaskan waters in a good year to participate in the salmon harvest.

Egan said he favored a bill introduced in the House to move the start of legislative sessions back to the fourth Monday in January.

He said that under the present system "it’s pretty hard to arrive at final legislative proposals because, budgetwise, we haven’t had enough experience until around the end of December to really determine the fiscal request for the fiscal year beginning next July 1."

Asked whether he would use his veto power on bills proposing establishment of large permanent funds for loans or other purposes, Egan said he "would have to review each of those pieces of legislation in light of projected income over the next few years."

He added that he felt programs of this type "could be adequately handled in the future."

Turning to the state’s mortgage participation program, which the Revenue Department said Tuesday it was terminating, Egan said that until now it has provided money for types of loans for which there already was money available in the state’s banks.

"And with a diminishing of the tight money problem, the banks are going to have more money for that type program anyway," he said. "We’re more interested now in getting money out to support low-income housing and that type of program."

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