House District 5
1. 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.
This question is rendered moot. The Permanent Fund Working Group did not have the clout to implement these options. Representative Adam Wool was a member of this group. This year’s dividend was determined by Sen. Bert Stedman, co-chair Senate Finance. In the amended budget, language was adopted for a $992 dividend and if this amount was not voted upon affirmatively, it would be reduced to $500 as default. After Wool worked with this committee, Wool submitted legislation to fully remove a dividend from residents then direct the dividend monies to agencies in the government by allotment giving no legislative input.
2. Do you support continued use of the state’s Constitutional Budget Reserve savings account to fund the government? Why or why not?
I support the process. I don’t support depleting savings. To access the Constitutional Budget Reserve, it takes a 75% vote of the Legislature. This gives all legislative members budget input for both the funding and non-funding of items. In turn, each legislative district has funding input. The CBR has been drawn down unsustainably the past eight years. It has been reduced from $15 billion to approximately $1.6 billion. I can bring fiscal sanity.
3. Is it time for Alaska to have a statewide sales or income tax? Explain.
These are not the taxes we need to implement. A statewide sales tax will go in front of our local sales taxes, reducing the FNSB, city of Fairbanks and city of North Pole’s income. The taxpayers of the borough are the recipients of financial burdens passed onto them by the state. I am not in favor of an individual income tax. It would take an estimated $50 million a year to operate.
4. 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.
I oppose initiative 1. This initiative removed the Legislature, governor, Department of Revenue, and legislative budget directors from discussion, overview, or review of what the initiative actually does. This Initiative was designed by antagonists of the oil industry. It removes any public input about the ramifications it will have, be it positive or negative. Such an important aspect of our economy cannot be determined in a backroom deal.
5. Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the state’s COVID-19 response? Explain
Yes. The governor did a great job protecting Alaska from the spread of COVID-19. He and his medical team monitored the virus continually and adjusted areas of our economy when needed. The governor, through his personal network, directly procured Personal Protective Equipment for Alaska from other nations and the Lower 48. Hard decisions were made by the governor and local government. The COVID-19 health impact in Alaska is among the lowest in the Nation.
6. 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.
Not at this time. Alaskans have been dealing with this virus for five months. Some locations have implemented mask requirements, others have not. Locations requiring a mask usually provide one. Most locations provide hand sanitizer for use upon entering and leaving. How you want to interact in public should be a personal choice. Staying home and minimizing contact is also a personal choice. Alaskans are independent, smart, and educated. Let individuals decide.
7. 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.
I do. It was expeditious of the university to make this fiscal legislative agreement. Considering the dramatic loss of revenue, it’s the right choice. I worry about the UAA vs. UAF funds distribution. Fairbanks is the true academic center of the university. Yet, my opponent, Adam Wool, a member of the House Majority and House Finance Committee, allowed fiscal resources to be parceled away from Fairbanks that should have stayed.
8. 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?
The largest landowner in the Fairbanks borough is the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority. Set up in territorial days, this unit takes care of the mentally needy. They opened their lands for more resource development and increased their revenue stream 300% over the past decade. The Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority must take an active role with local governments and health providers to perform tasks they were prescribed to do 70 years ago.
9. 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
Alaska’s police already began de-escalation training. The city of Fairbanks provides training that every police officer must complete and pass. State troopers are training this as well. However, in many areas of District 5, residents tell me crime has increased dramatically in the past four years. Citizens need to be protected. We need balance. Our state and local leaders are working on de-escalation of confrontation. My goal is less crime in District 5.
10. 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?
Village services such as water have been mostly funded through the federal government, administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs through Tanana Chiefs. Much funding for the villages and tribes has happened this way since ANCSA. I would work with the federal delegation of Young, Sullivan and Murkowski to see this funding continue and more is directed toward water, sewer and sanitary facilities.
11. 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?
I’m opposed. The governor appoints people to boards and they are confirmed by the Legislature. Each year, board appointees are vetted and some are rejected. Our Constitution gives the state a “strong governor.” Elected by the citizens of Alaska, with a check and balance by the Legislature confirming his appointments. The governor has the authority to appoint an individual who represents a non-consumptive use group. We should not tie the hands of future governors.
12. 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?
I do not support any provision that would affect the Fairbanks North Star Borough negatively in their budgets and hence services provided to the residents of the Fairbanks North Star Borough. I believe the reason the governor did this was the valuations and the revenues the North Slope Borough gets from the oil field infrastructure on state lands. The Fairbanks North Star Borough would be a casualty of such.
13. 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.
We have a $1.5 billion deficit. Health and Human Services, which Medicaid is paid through, is our largest single budgetary item. When you have a $1.5 billion deficit, each area of the budget will face reduction. Six years ago, when our income stream crashed, Governor Walker expanded Medicaid now costing us around $300 million a year. This should have never happened! Previously, we had a very good system.
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 allegations should be formally investigated, and if they are found to have broken the law, they should be charged, taken through the process and if found guilty they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We must be tough on crime no matter who the perpetrator is.
Q: Do you support public schools opening fully for in-person education in the spring semester? Why or why not?
Absolutely! Safety measures should be put in place and then the parents should be given the option to continue online studies or to have their children return to school. This should happen sooner vs. later.
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: Thank you to all of our great workers that have gone to work each and every day no matter what the risk has been to them or their families. The list of essential workers goes beyond health care personnel, teachers and public safety. I would consider such a proposal, but whether or not I could support it would depend upon the details.
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: When I first looked at this question, I knew nothing about the issue. I called BLM, DNR, DF&G, hunting and travel advisory groups. After speaking to them, I would bring them, and any others that wanted to be involved, to the table to discuss the cause of the damage and possible solutions. These solutions then could be implemented by their volunteer groups. Future meetings could be held to come up with ideas to prevent further damage.