Mike Prax

Mike Prax

House District 3

Republican

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: Distributing permanent fund earnings as dividends to eligible Alaskans is the only equitable way to distribute those earnings. I would support making the POMV draw available for distribution as dividends and enable individuals to deduct however much they want to support state government services from the amount they are eligible to receive on their annual dividend application. They could even designate which programs they prefer to support. This would enable those who want to support government services to do so without imposing their will on those who prefer to use the dividend to meet personal needs.

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

A: Article IX, Section 17 of Alaska’s State Constitution — which established the CBR — might as well be repealed. The CBR was intended to control spending, but certain legislators soon figured out how to circumvent this intent. It is now practically depleted and only serves to complicate the budgeting process.

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

A: No. Because Article I, Section 1 of Alaska’s Constitution proclaims we are dedicated to the principles that all persons have a natural right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the enjoyment of their own industry — not the industry of others. Forcing people to pay a sales or income tax in order to provide the current level of state services contravenes these principles.

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 should vote NO on Proposition 1. It establishes a tax rate and imposes other restrictions that certainly would discourage me (and probably would discourage others) from investing in Alaska’s North Slope. This so-called “Fair Tax Act” is a deceptive way to fix a short-term revenue problem that will lead to an even more dire fiscal future for Alaska.

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

A: The Dunleavy administration, working with the Fairbanks hospital foundation and others, responded to the initial outbreak remarkably well under the circumstances. But the cost of shutting down so many businesses has been devastating. Looking forward, we need to balance the risks of the virus spreading against the cost of mitigating that risk so a complete collapse of Alaska’s economy can be avoided.

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: No. Wearing masks is a good recommendation, but it should not be mandated. I would like to see the state health department provide more specific information about where and how people are catching the virus, so individuals can make more-informed decisions about protecting themselves, but I do not support state-mandated solutions.

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: The $25 million state general fund reduction amounts to less than 5.5% of the $513,654,300 general fund appropriation to the university system. (As compared to shorting individual Alaskans over 50% in PFD payments.) Next year’s revenue shortfall could exceed $200 million. So we must accept the reality that we will have to look for reductions in all state departments.

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: I agree we need to consider different approaches to addressing mental health issues, but I don’t have specific proposals.

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 must determine the root causes of the excessive force complaints in order to understand which of these proposals might alleviate the problem. I’m willing to consider all possible causes and solutions with an open mind.

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, like most of the residents of District 3, don’t have access to community water supplies. We choose to drill our own wells. Perhaps this would work in at least some of those villages. I don’t know specifically what needs to be done in other situations.

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: No. Those interested in non-consumptive can apply to serve on the board, but designating seats for specific interest groups violates the principle of equal representation. AS 16.05.221(b) stipulates: “... The governor shall appoint each member on the basis of interest in public affairs, good judgment, knowledge, and ability in the field of action of the board, and with a view to providing diversity of interest and points of view in the membership.”

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’m opposed to an outright repeal of local government’s authority to levy property tax on oil and gas properties, but the criteria for determining the number of residents in these municipalities for purposes of AS 29. 45. 090(f) needs to be reviewed, because some jurisdictions appear to be claiming considerably more residents than census or voter registration data indicates.

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: Yes. Alaska’s Medicaid program will bankrupt the state if we aren’t willing to explore all measures to make sure those applying for Medicaid are eligible for coverage, that the state is paying only for medically necessary services, and that those services are being delivered at the lowest reasonable expense. The state should also advocate for reforming federal Medicaid statutes and regulations.

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: The state must ensure “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. The right of all persons to fair and just treatment in the course of legislative and executive investigations shall not be infringed.” As required by Art.1, Sec.7 of our state Constitution: ‘Due process’ is based on the presumption of innocence.

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

A: I support reopening school buildings ASAP, so teachers and parents can assess the risks and decide whether to participate in ‘in-person’ education delivery service or other opportunities.   

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: No. The appropriate strategy (and OSHA requirement) is to provide personal protective equipment to mitigate the risk.

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 state should establish a fee structure for using public lands that is based on the cost, not the use.