Jeremiah Youmans

Jeremiah Youmans

House District 2

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: I support paying the full statutory PFD formula. If we change the PFD it should go to a vote of the people. Alaska needs to decouple the dividend from the running of the state and have broad based taxation and receive our fair share of oil revenue.

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

A: I support it in the abstract, but it’s not actually an option. We’ve spent it down to $450 million. We can’t really spend any more of it. We need to implement a broad-based progressive tax and get our fair share of our oil revenue to fund the government.

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

A: It’s past time for Alaska to have a statewide tax. We should have never abolished the state’s income tax. In 1980, Jay Hammond said repealing the income tax was the stupidest thing we could do. He was right.

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: Yes. I believe we should get our fair share of revenue for our oil. Legislative inaction on this has galvanized people into pushing this through as a ballot measure. We will see the will of Alaskans in November.

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

A: I am beyond satisfied with the work our great public health officials are doing fighting the disease on the front lines. I am deeply dissatisfied, however, with the economic response. From the Legislature only appropriating funds due to the threat of a lawsuit to the delays in disbursing the AK CARES grant money, the state’s economic response has been a nightmare.

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. Health experts say that masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. We should listen to the experts. We should all be doing our part in stopping the spread of this deadly virus.

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: I disagree with these cuts to the University of Alaska. While the university has some housecleaning to do, these drastic cuts have threatened the university’s future. From teachers to welders, the university educates and trains Alaska’s workforce. We also need to ensure the University of Alaska receives its full land grant.

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: We should take money from the carceral system and invest it in mental health care services and substance abuse centers. Alaska has the third highest suicide rate in America. Alaska needs to address this crisis.

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: Black, Indigenous, and People of Color are disproportionately killed during police encounters in Alaska. We should be investing in our communities to address the root causes of “crime” including poverty, houselessness, mental health issue, and substance abuse instead of the police.

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: We need to work on a government-to-government basis and fund these projects. It seems unconscionable that any Alaskans don’t have access to running water. This obvious oversight is a public health crisis normally, let alone with the current pandemic.

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: That seems in keeping with the constitutional mandate that we develop our natural resources for the maximum benefit of all people.

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 repeal of these provisions. Local governments should be able to levy taxes on properties in their jurisdiction.

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: I oppose cutting Medicaid. We should be doing more to help our most vulnerable citizens, not denying them health care. Those cuts were ineffective and based on a false premise. We added $120 million in Medicaid funding in this year’s supplemental budget to pay for the 2019 cuts, because those cuts couldn’t be actualized. The $31 million is being filled by CARES Act money, so it’s not a real cut.

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: When a public official commits these acts, it is a grave abuse of their authority. Alaska has the highest rate of sexual assault in this nation. This misconduct erodes the publics trust and silences victims. To start to restore the public’s trust, the Legislature needs to investigate the misconduct of former AG Kevin Clarkson and the ongoing stonewalling and coverup by the Dunleavy administration.

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

A: I support opening public schools when that community is in compliance with the CDC recommendations for reopening schools. Until we can bring our case counts down, we should not reopen schools. Everyone needs to wash their hands, social distance and wear face coverings.

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 support hazard pay for essential workers. Alaska does not have the revenue to provide that. We need to push the federal government to pass the HEROES Act, which would provide $190 billion for hazard pay for essential workers.

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: The Alaska Constitution is clear though that we must utilize all resources, “for the maximum benefit of its people.” There is a balance to be had with some personal responsibility and education. We also need to think about how Alaska Native tribes do not have any say or participation in this federal-state dual management system and without this the Alaska Native well-being will continue to be at risk.