Elijah Verhagen

Elijah Verhagen

House District 6

Undeclared

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 will do what I can to keep the 1982 formula intact. If the formula has to change for the dividend to not dry up, it should be agreed upon by the people not the legislators. I will push for the change in formula to be put before the people on a statewide ballot. Why? Because we don’t have mineral rights in Alaska because we have the land lease royalties going into the permanent fund for the people. It’s not the legislator’s money it’s the people’s money. Until the formula is changed I will vote for a statutory PFD.

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

A: Yes, it has to be an option, although it’s down under a billion dollars which is horrible. I’d like to avoid using it and actually replenish it. However, to use the CBR you need a three-quarters vote from the Legislature, which means you have to collaborate across party lines to use it, which is good. We need more collaboration; we’re in this together.

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

A: No. I’m opposed to a statewide sales tax or income tax based on principle, because it’s punishing the people for the Legislature’s cumulative overspending and draining the state’s CBR (rainy day fund). It’s not the people’s fault the funds are mostly gone. Alaska is unlike anywhere else for a reason. So no, we don’t need an income tax on an already struggling, small, working population.

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: I am voting no on Measure 1. I believe it goes too far. Are the oil and gas companies getting a good deal up here? Yes they definitely are, but this measure will bring short-term gains and have long painful consequences. I believe we need to adjust the royalty rates the companies lease our land for and even look at the tax system and possibly change it. But this is not the right way.

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

A: It is easy to point blame in retrospect regarding how Covid was dealt with. There were many unknowns at the beginning that we should learn from and adjust now with the knowledge we have. I don’t blame the administration for the way it was handled. However, I would not have shut down the entire private sector. This will take years now to recover from economically.

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: Absolutely not. Government should not be forcing people to do things. Our US Constitution says “Congress shall make no law restricting….. etc.,” for a reason. Governments should protect our rights and freedoms not limit them. They can recommend and give reasons why it might be wise but governments shouldn’t force people to do anything. It’s necessary to have laws with consequences if broken because that places the responsibility and choice with the individual.

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 do not support all the cuts the university has seen but the university cannot be exempt from cuts. We are all in this financial struggle together. With a budget the size of the university’s including all their tuition, state, and federal funding, it seems unrealistic that a $25 million cut would actually break them. I am a proud UAF alumnus and support the UA system and want them to succeed.

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 help partner and collaborate with nonprofits, Native corporations, churches, and communities to help tackle these substantial mental health issues and substance abuses. Help and support from those around us help people cope with mental health issues and substance abuse. The state needs to funnel more money from the alcohol/cigarette/marijuana tax to addiction recovery programs and mental health programs within our prisons.

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: The state needs to again partner with communities and the Native corporations to help reduce substance abuses in Alaska. Around 80% of police/trooper calls are drug and alcohol related. As we address these issues, law enforcement will be in way less dangerous situations where things escalate so rapidly and firearms are used.

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: This is a somber reality that needs to be fixed. The state can partner with TCC, the villages and the federal government to get grants and set aside funding to help bring clean water to these villages. They can also reduce regulations restricting the use of the natural water wells that have worked well for years in these 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: No. That opens the door for individuals that may be against sustainable harvesting of our fish and wildlife. Alaskans cherish our wildlife and fish and want the populations to stay renewable and thrive but they don’t want to be told we can’t hunt and fish to provide food for our families.

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 a repeal of these provisions. Local control is always best.

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. This is tough. If the state had more money, perhaps these cuts wouldn’t be necessary, but it doesn’t. Gov. Walker expanded Medicaid where at the beginning the federal government was paying most of the costs with the state paying little. Now the equation years later has flipped and the state is paying most of the Medicaid expansion costs. Under the expansion people making up to $40 k a year were included.

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 should require that any public official that has participated in sexual misconduct is removed if the individual does not resign first. We cannot keep ignoring or sweeping these misconducts under the rug which happens all too often sadly. The people should seriously look into candidates’ histories to the best of their abilities before electing them. Integrity and morality should be of utmost importance when interviewing and hiring state employees.

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

A: Yes. The numbers and facts have shown us that Covid rarely is fatal for our youth and children. We can have high risk teachers who choose to work from home, zoom into the classrooms but most teachers and all students who desire should be back in school. It’s crazy that some single parents have to have six laptops streaming into their house to teach their six kids with various ages.

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. Overtime pay is already in place. Money has to come from somewhere, and the state doesn’t have much money left. As grateful as I am for these individuals, I don’t believe hazard pay should be a thing. We in the private sector still have to work to survive during the pandemic without any possibility of hazard pay.

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 am a hunter, most of Alaskans are hunters and most hunters are responsible and don’t want to destroy the land. However, I saw the damage done first hand and it’s unacceptable. Any hunter caught tearing up the land the way it occurred should be heavily fined, restricted to hunt there in the future and a several year restriction on their hunting license.