100 Years of Alaska's Legislature
"From Territorial Days to Today"

1987 - 1988

Juneau, Alaska

15th State Legislature

Back-to-Back Iditarod Wins


Susan Butcher Wins in '87 & '88

During 1987 and 1988, businesses went bankrupt, jobs were lost, banks foreclosed on property, and tens of thousands of workers left Alaska. Many villages were on the financial brink due to reduced State spending, shrinking Federal aid, and in many cases, poor salmon runs. State student loans hit record delinquency rates. The State was in recession, and the seat of government was in turbulence. When Governor Cowper suggested state employees take a voluntary 10 percent pay cut, the unions balked. When he then tried to implement a 40-hour work week, the unions won a temporary stay from the Court. The Legislature rejected his income tax bill. And when the Governor attempted to fill the vacancy left by the death of Senator Don Bennett with someone other than the single name offered by Fairbanks Republicans, an impasse of two month's duration ensued.

Within the Legislature, the Republican-led Senate published sharp criticism of the House for refusing to approve revenue bills to balance the $2 billion budget it had crafted. Questions arose over the Senate President's spending of the Leadership Fund, and the House-led Democrats issued blunt and blistering accusations when the pro-oil Senators unabashedly announced their intention of holding Party fundraisers while representing the State on official business. As a result, campaign finance reform was back on the agenda.

In more bipartisan moments, lawmakers established Elizabeth Peratrovich Day in honor of "her courageous, unceasing efforts to eliminate discrimination and bring about equal rights in Alaska." They also changed the Uniform Rules to provide for proportional representation of minority members on standing committees, and established a moratorium on farming of finfish-species such as salmon and halibut, finding that such farming raised many socio-economic, biological, and environmental issues that required in-depth examination. A bill to prohibit finfish farming became law in 1990, and that prohibition stands today, in favor of Alaska's world famous wild stock salmon.

The 15th Legislature also enacted the Alaska Education Credit-a credit against certain tax liabilities for contributions to Alaska's accredited non-profit colleges and universities; authorized the Department of Public Safety to maintain an automated fingerprint system; appropriated over $75 million for capital projects to provide jobs and to boost the Alaska economy; established the Alaska Science and Technology Foundation; and required a preference for recycled products used by state and local governments and school districts.

Beyond the Legislature

In 1987 and 1988, Susan Butcher takes the second and third of her four Iditarod wins.

The 1988 Anchorage Daily News series by Howard Weaver, " People in Peril: A Generation in Despair," documents the high degree of alcoholism and suicide in Alaska's Native population and wins the 1989 Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for Public Service.

Soviets allow Friendship Flight One, carrying 82 Natives, politicians, and members of the press, to fly across the Bering Strait to Providenya in Siberia to establish family ties and open a gateway for regular tourist flights.

The first part of the North Slope corruption case from 1981 - 1984 goes to trial; prosecution of participants continues into 1990.

Evidence of an ozone hole in the Arctic adds to growing world-wide concern; 24 nations and the European Economic Community agree to begin reducing the use of ozone-depleting chemicals.

New York-bound Pan-Am Boeing 747 explodes in flight from a terrorist bomb and crashes into Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 259 aboard and 11 on the ground.

International efforts to rescue stranded gray whales trapped by ice near Barrow capture the attention of the world.

Ben Grussendorf

Jan Faiks