Christopher Quist

Christopher Quist

Christopher Quist

House District 1

Democrat

Q: The Legislature’s Permanent Fund Working Group issued a report in January outlining three options for the future of the PFD. The group only agreed on one thing: the draw of the permanent fund earnings reserve, including the dividend payment, should not exceed 5.25% of the fund’s market value. 

The other options include: 1) a full dividend in line with the 1982 formula in state statute, 2) a standard yearly $1,600 dividend, and 3) a concept referred to as the “surplus dividend” that would pay out what’s left after government is funded, an amount that could vary depending on government funding levels.  

What change, if any, do you support making to the permanent fund dividend formula? Explain. 

A: The permanent fund must be preserved for future generations of Alaskans. It is our shared sovereign wealth and is a key element of our post-oil economy. The dividend is the surplus, and is an important, but secondary feature of the permanent fund. The PFD has been eroded by the failure of SB21. In order to restore health and sustainability to the permanent fund and dividend the companies that extract and sell Alaska’s oil must pay their fair share. Managed properly, and leveraging the fund to invest in Alaskan families and businesses will allow for shared prosperity for all Alaskans.

Q: Do you support continued use of the state’s Constitutional Budget Reserve savings account to fund the government? Why or why not? 

A: The CBR is an important and powerful tool that must be used only in times of great need and must be bolstered when revenues to the state are high.

Q: Is it time for Alaska to have a statewide sales or income tax? Explain. 

A: The repeal of Alaska’s income tax was an historic blunder, and yes, the time has come to once again have a broad-based tax in Alaska. This tax must be a progressive one. I am strongly opposed to sales taxes at the state level as they are heavily regressive, and, customarily, the ability to levy a sales tax has been reserved for municipalities in our state.

Q: An initiative on the November general election ballot seeks to repeal Senate Bill 21 and change the state’s oil and gas tax system. Should Alaska change its oil and gas tax system? Explain. 

A: Absolutely, yes. Alaska must reform its oil tax structure. SB21 has resulted in billions of dollars of lost revenue to the state and has in large part created our ongoing budget crisis. Under a reformed tax structure, oil and gas companies would be paying approximately $700 million more per year to help fund state services and sustain the Permanent Fund.

Q: Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the state’s COVID-19 response? Explain

A: The rush to open up was foolhardy and squandered Alaska’s natural advantage of being a ‘‘physically distanced’’ state. The absence of effective mandates from the governor has led to confusion and the inability of communities to coordinate a response to the pandemic. A lack of leadership on this critical issue only prolongs the health and economic crisis.

Q: In June, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz approved a municipality-wide policy mandating the wearing of masks in public indoor spaces. Many boroughs and municipalities do not have the powers to enact policies of that nature. Would you support a statewide policy requiring the wearing of masks or cloth face coverings in public spaces? Explain. 

A: Yes, I would support and encourage the governor to enact a state-wide mask mandate. The CDC reports that this pandemic could be under control in four to eight weeks if we all wore masks to slow community transmission. We all want to see the pandemic be a thing of the past, working together we can do just that.

Q: The University of Alaska narrowly avoided financial exigency last year after state funding for the university was cut by $25 million. The university has sustained annual cuts in state funding since 2012. Do you support the budget cuts the university has seen? Explain. 

A: No, I strongly oppose the previous budget cuts to the university. I would support the restoration funding to the university system in order to offer to Alaskans robust academic programs. A vital, healthy, and diverse higher education system is critical to our state’s present and future success. If Alaska is to be “open for business,’’ then we need to be growing an educated and effective workforce.

Q: Alaska’s prison system is the number one provider of mental health services in the state. What, if anything, should the state do to improve mental health and substance abuse services across the state? 

A: Incarceration is not mental health treatment. Alaskans should not have to be in prison in order to have access to basic health care. Expanding public resources and care is necessary to provide alternative paths to at risk individuals in order to avoid the revolving door of prison. Ultimately this can help with the state’s budgetary and mental health challenges.

Q: In the wake of George Floyd’s death at the end of May, large-scale reforms in law enforcement and policing are being called for across the country with specific calls for de-escalation, mental health and racial prejudice training and more transparency and attention to police misconduct. What, if anything, do you propose for Alaska? Explain

A: We should all be treated equally under the law, and by those that enforce the laws, regardless of our race. Law enforcement should reflect the diversity of the communities they serve. As stated previously, those with mental health needs, or substance abuse issues, should have avenues for treatment and care beyond just incarceration.

Q: Nearly one-third of the Interior rural communities represented by Tanana Chiefs Conference have no running water village-wide. What steps would you take to improve village sanitation?  

A: Community infrastructure grants, in coordination with local community leadership, would be an good way to improve sanitation and quality of life in rural villages.

Q: Alaska’s fish and game boards have historically consisted of hunters and fishers. Should the boards have one or more seats designated for representatives of non-consumptive uses of Alaska’s fish and wildlife?

A: Yes, all stakeholders in Alaska’s beautiful and natural resources should have a say in Alaska Fish and Game policy.

Q: The governor last year introduced legislation to repeal the authority of a local government to levy its property tax on oil and gas properties within its jurisdiction and to repeal the related credit for that amount an oil company receives against the state tax on the same properties. Last year, owners of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline paid the Fairbanks North Star Borough $11.4 million in property taxes. Do you support or oppose repeal of these provisions?

A: I oppose the governor’s attempt to shift municipal funds from the communities in which they belong to state coffers. Be that money that belongs in the North Slope Borough or the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

Q: Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed $50 million in state Medicaid funding in 2019 and $31 million in 2020, resulting in losses in coverage for Alaskans on Medicaid and payments for providers through the Medicaid program. Do you support this decision to cut state spending for Medicaid? Explain.

A: No, I do not support the governor’s cuts to Medicaid. Far more was lost in federal dollars, and available care to Alaskans, than was gained in these meager cuts. Now, more than ever, we must ensure that all Alaskans, particularly those with most need, have access to adequate health care.

Q: Three former legislators, one former lieutenant governor and one former attorney general have either resigned from office or dropped out of reelection campaigns in the last three years due to sexual misconduct allegations against them. How do you think the state should handle situations of sexual misconduct involving state officials? Explain.

A: It is absolutely necessary that we address sexual misconduct by expanding state support systems for victims and making it easier to come forward. We can start to address these issues by first acknowledging that sexual misconduct is disproportionately high in our state. We also must protect funding to the Department of Public Safety’s prevention and response services and support local entities such as the Interior Alaska Center for Non-Violent Living.

Q: Do you support public schools opening fully for in-person education in the spring semester? Why or why not?

A: We have to continue to listen to the scientists and public health experts. Dr. Zink at the state level and Dr. Nace in Fairbanks, along with countless other dedicated professionals, have worked tirelessly to keep us safe, while ensuring we can still do the things we love. Any school re-opening plan must be both in accordance with public health guidance and empathetic to the concerns of teachers, students, and staff.

Q: Would you support the implementation of state funded hazard pay for essential workers such as health care personnel, teachers and public safety employees who must continue to work during the pandemic? Explain.

A: I fully support state funded hazard pay for essential workers during this pandemic. Though Alaska has handled coronavirus better than most states, the risk in going back to a new version of “normal life” remains real and inherent, especially for those who don’t have the luxury to work from home. By utilizing programs such as hazard pay, we can show middle and working class families that we have their backs.

Q: Areas of the Pinnell Mountain Trail were destroyed by four-wheelers used by hunters this fall during the Fortymile caribou hunt. It will cost the federal Bureau of Land Management thousands of dollars to repair. How would you approach the issue of land use disputes between hunters and non-consumptive land users and the different authorities of state and federal agencies?

A: I would start by pursuing a more official forum for discourse between hunters and non-consumptive users in our state. As currently constructed, the Alaska Board of Game is not in a good position to take into account the interests of non-consumptive users, such as hikers, photographers, and others who enjoying viewing Alaska’s natural beauty. To protect our public lands for future generations, I would welcome active participation from these constituencies.