House District 2
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 fully support paying the dividend according to the 1982 statute. When we created the PFD in 1976, we envisioned it as a way to share Alaska’s wealth in perpetuity, not just for today. I will continue working to keep downward pressure on the budget to pay the largest dividends we can while still ensuring that the PFD will be there for future generations.
Q: Do you support continued use of the state’s Constitutional Budget Reserve savings account to fund the government? Why or why not?
A: We’re required to repay any money we draw from the CBR and we need to prioritize that responsibility. As the mayor of Fairbanks, I worked hard to establish savings for the city, turning a $1.6 million deficit into a $6.5 million savings account by the end of my six years in office. We need to focus on balancing the budget and not rely on our savings to fill the gap.
Q: Is it time for Alaska to have a statewide sales or income tax? Explain.
A: I don’t support statewide sales or income taxes at this point. With Alaskans struggling to deal with the economic disruption caused by COVID-19, this is not the time to place additional financial burdens on them.
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: We know that oil and gas companies need stability in our state’s tax policy to make the decisions to invest in projects that will put more oil in the pipeline. I do not support changes to the oil and gas tax system as they would hamper development and result in reduced oil revenue for Alaska. Changes like these would have a directly negative impact on our permanent fund.
Q: Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the state’s COVID-19 response? Explain
A: I think Governor Dunleavy has done a good job communicating with Alaskans and explaining the things that we need to do to control the spread of COVID-19. I’ve been pleased that the governor has allowed communities across the state to determine what works for them and has not tried to push a “one size fits all” solution to this problem.
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: I wouldn’t support a statewide mask mandate. I currently wear a mask when I go into public situations where I’m unable to maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others. I think that we should focus on providing Alaskans with the information they need to make good decisions for themselves and their families rather than mandating something that may not be necessary in many communities around the state.
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: It’s necessary to keep pressure on the university budget, but we must balance cuts with a recognition of the value the university brings to Fairbanks and to Alaska. It’s never easy to make cuts, but the university has worked hard to become less reliant on state funding. We should continue to set the expectations that the university will be good stewards of state resources and an economic engine for Alaska.
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: The state needs to continue trying to provide mental health and substance abuse services that help people get on the right track before they end up in jail. It’s penny wise and pound foolish to wait until we have to pay the high cost of locking people up when we can invest less money in services that will keep them out of jail in the first place.
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: I wrote legislation increasing training for law enforcement in Alaska. Briefings with state and local law enforcement make me confident that we are well ahead of the Lower 48 in our approach. I appreciate the brave professionals who go to work every day to keep Alaskans safe. I’ve worked hard to prioritize training and support for law enforcement and will work to ensure that we devote adequate resources to public safety.
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: I will continue working with my colleagues in the Legislature, congressional delegation and tribal organizations to address the needs of the rural communities. The sanitation issue is a serious public health concern. Funding from various state, federal, and tribal organizations should be identified to address this issue.
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: I think that drawing a distinction between consumptive and non-consumptive users is not necessary or helpful. Every Alaskan understands the importance of our fish and game resources, and as elected officials, we have a responsibility to ensure that those resources are managed to the maximum benefit of all Alaskans.
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 measures that that seek to fill our state’s budget gap at the expense of local communities.
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: At $2.4 billion, Medicaid spending is the single-biggest expense in our state budget. Getting our health care spending under control will be critical as we work to balance the budget. A: I support cuts that encourage individuals to take personal responsibility, but we also have to be careful to make sure we aren’t making cuts that create more problems than they solve.
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: Allegations of sexual misconduct should be treated seriously. If allegations of sexual misconduct arise, or if the state has reason to believe sexual misconduct is occurring, steps should be taken to ensure that the matter is promptly investigated and addressed. If allegations are determined to be credible, there should be immediate and effective measures to end the unwelcome behavior.
Q: Do you support public schools opening fully for in-person education in the spring semester? Why or why not?
A: Whether schools should fully open next semester depends on what infection and transmission rates of COVID-19 look like at that time and on any additional information learned about the virus between now and then. We also need to provide options for families who are unable to facilitate remote learning. I support a hybrid approach as we continue to navigate the challenges associated with COVID-19.
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’m familiar with hazard pay initiatives that contemplate the use of state or federal funds to be disbursed to employers and employees. I think that this approach is preferable to placing an unfunded hazard pay mandate on the private sector, but given our current budget deficit, I would be reluctant to endorse using state funds. I would consider allocating federal relief funds to 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: Alaska has a long history of reducing and reconciling conflicts between different user groups on our state and federal lands. Encouraging stakeholders to share their concerns and listen to the concerns of others is the beginning of any conflict resolution. Alaskans want to protect and preserve our lands and we should work together from this common ground to ensure that all users are able to benefit from our public lands.