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: The PFD should continue to be paid according to the 1982 statute. I will support putting it into a constitutional amendment and oppose any changes to the current law.
Q: Do you support continued use of the state’s Constitutional Budget Reserve savings account to fund the government? Why or why not?
A: The current budget crisis from COVID-19 shows us the hazard of continued use of the Constitutional Budget Reserve to fund our budget shortfalls. We could have used it this year. Instead, it is effectively gone. We can’t afford to continue kicking the can down the road. We need to match our spending to our revenues, put our budget on a sustainable path, and rebuild our savings for the next crisis.
Q: Is it time for Alaska to have a statewide sales or income tax? Explain.
A: I will not support a state sales tax. I would consider a flat percentage income tax but only as a replacement for other revenue, such as ending the state’s use of the permanent fund earnings for state spending.
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’ve already seen what high oil taxes can do to production in this state when we lost a third of our production under ACES. We run the same risk with the oil tax initiative. Further, it is simply another revenue grab that doesn’t fix our underlying problem of spending too much.
Q: Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the state’s COVID-19 response? Explain
A: The state has largely done the right thing with its COVID response by balancing both the economy and the health of our residents. Further controls risk both personal freedoms and higher death rates through other causes like suicide.
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: It’s generally a bad idea to pass laws that a large portion of the population holds in contempt. That applies to a mask mandate as well, and I wouldn’t be in favor of one.
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: Heavy dependence on state spending hurts the university in the long run. Former President Johnsen has stated that the university has too much administration and too many facilities for the number of students that it educates. That is the result of easy state money. Dependence on the state for capital spending also warps policies for political ends, such as building the Anchorage sports complex ahead of the new engineering building.
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?
(No answer given)
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: Training is always good for law enforcement. We also need to do a better job of holding bad officers accountable so that they don’t ruin the reputation and effectiveness of the vast majority of good officers that keep the peace in our state.
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?
(No answer given)
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: For our game animals, the goals of hunters and non-consumptive users are largely the same: more animals. I don’t see a reason to change the Board of Game makeup.
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: Our Constitution provides for the maximum amount of local control possible. That includes tax policy. I don’t support removing the ability for local government to tax oil and gas property within its 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: Medicaid needs major reform before it bankrupts our state. That includes putting payments more in line with national averages and making private insurance cheaper and easier to access so that more people will be able to get coverage outside of Medicaid. Having one-third of our residents on Medicaid is simply unsustainable.
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: While these are serious allegations, the standards of due process still apply. We have procedures in place to deal with officials who are suspected of committing crimes or ethics violations. We should continue to follow them.
Q: Do you support public schools opening fully for in-person education in the spring semester? Why or why not?
A: We have to ask ourselves how much we are losing in terms of academic achievement and social interaction. We should open schools to allow parents to decide what is more important to their family instead of dictating a top down answer. If we're not going to open soon, the state needs to transition to long-term distance learning as soon as possible.
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: Thousands of jobs across this state are classified as essential, from grocery store clerks to oil and gas workers. The state can't give everyone hazard pay, nor should it try.
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: ATV use isn't limited to hunters. If users of any type are damaging trails or facilities beyond normal wear and tear and requiring additional maintenance, we may have to reassess our fee structure for access to those areas.