Q: The federal deficit has increased each year since 2016, according to government data, after declining from the high in response to the 2008-09 Great Recession. The government last had a surplus in 2001. Beginning in 2016, increases in spending on Social Security, health care, and interest on the federal debt have outpaced the growth of federal revenue, according to the government’s tracking website. What do you propose for reducing the deficit?
A: Washington has a spending problem and a revenue problem. We need to ensure that we aren’t wasting money. In my pension reform plan I outlined tens of billions of dollars in government waste I would cut, and there is much more to do. We also need a fairer tax system that ends corporate tax giveaways, like giving companies a tax break to send jobs overseas.
Q: Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with President Trump’s COVID-19 response? Explain
A: As a doctor I know that the only way you can fix this crisis is by bringing everyone together — federal, state, and local government, corporate America and the public. By that standard, the federal government has failed and we’re all paying the price.
Q: Explain your view on climate change. Is it a problem and what, if anything, should Congress do to address the issue?
A: Man-made climate change is an urgent crisis that we must begin to address immediately, and Alaska is ground zero. We need to work to reduce carbon emissions, double down on our investment in renewable energy, and provide resources to communities working to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Villages in Alaska are literally falling into the ocean. We cannot delay taking robust action any longer.
Q: President Trump has made clear he wants to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act. Do you support DACA or do you share President Trump’s desire to eliminate the “Dreamers” program? Explain.
A: It’s past time to pass a law protecting the Dreamers. Many Dreamers came to America at a young age through no fault of their own and have little if any connection to their countries of origin. While there’s broad disagreement on reforming our immigration system in general, there’s deep bipartisan support to provide relief to the Dreamers, and it is a moral failure that we have not yet taken action.
Q: The Supreme Court recently ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s protections against sex discrimination in the workplace protects LGBTQ individuals against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Do you agree with this ruling? Explain.
A: I strongly support this ruling. The United States has no place for discrimination of any kind, including based on sexual orientation and gender identity. I am glad no one can be fired for simply being gay any longer.
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. What changes, if any, would you like to see? Does Congress have a role in the subject?
A: Given that policing is largely a local issue, Congress has a limited role to play. That said, there are important steps Congress can take. For example, Congress should establish a national standard for quality policing and offer grant programs for police departments that meet them. We should also have a national database of officers who have been fired for abusing their position so they cannot simply be rehired somewhere else.
Q: Nearly one-third of the Interior rural communities represented by Tanana Chiefs Conference have no running water village-wide. This is the case for many rural villages across the state. What steps would you take to improve village sanitation?
A: I would combine direct investment in communities along with workforce development to not only improve the infrastructure of rural Alaska but also put Alaskans to work in quality, well-paying jobs. The former would come directly from federal appropriations, and the latter would come from increased investment in vocational education as well as enhanced support for unions that recruit and train new workers.
Q: While drilling projects in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska are moving forward, Alaska is seeing a drop in oil company activity in the state. What, if anything, should Congress do to incentivize oil development in Alaska?
A: We have to come to terms with the fact that oil development is no longer enough. While Alaska will naturally continue to produce oil, prices hitting negative $37 a barrel highlights how untenable our reliance on oil is. Congress should incentivize the growth of the clean economy of the 21st century, while reducing health care costs, which are a major barrier to entry for companies looking at operating in our state.
Q: Alaska faces some of the worst rates of sexual assault and domestic violence in the country, particularly in the state’s Indigenous population. What, if anything, should Congress do to address the issues of sexual assault, domestic violence and missing and murdered Indigenous women?
A: I recently released a comprehensive plan to fight DVSA. It consists of 3 pillars with concrete actions Congress can take: 1) increase resources for jurisdictions prosecuting DVSA and greater accountability for perpetrators, 2) invest in reducing recidivism and protecting victims, 3) expand victims’ rights and their access to resources to help them escape their abuse. Congress should set standards for states to follow and offer grants to those that do.
Q: Do you support the Affordable Care Act or do you think the program should be repealed? If you support repealing it, what, if anything, should replace it?
A: The ACA took important steps to expand access to health care, but it hasn’t made care more affordable in Alaska. We should build off of the ACA by continuing to expand access while also containing the spiraling costs of care. We should do this by extending a public option that allows individuals and small groups to buy into Medicare at cost and take steps to reduce the cost of prescription drugs.
Q: The percentage of Alaska’s total population that is age 65 and older is increasing. The Social Security trust fund is projected to be depleted in 2035 because the cost of providing benefits has been exceeding income. Without any change, the depletion would lead to a reduction in benefits to match the income. What is your suggested solution, if any?
A: We have a moral obligation to fully honor our commitment to the seniors who worked their entire lives to build the most robust economy the world has ever seen. Cutting benefits is absolutely unacceptable. We can start by making sure millionaires pay the same rate as working families. This simple change could shore up Social Security for a generation.
Q: The University of Alaska has one of the smallest federal land grants among public universities in the 50 states. For a variety of reasons it has never received all of the land it is supposed to have received, thereby limiting the amount of money it can raise through land ownership. Several attempts in Congress to provide additional land have failed since the mid-1990s. What will you do about this?
A: I look forward to working with UA leadership and other stakeholders to resolve this problem equitably. Alaska imports an incredibly large number of workers from Outside, all while maintaining one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Quality institutions of higher learning are a critical component in rectifying this imbalance, and I will work hard in the Senate to help our university system get the resources it needs.
Q: More Russian military activity near Alaska Air Defense Zones and U.S. waters has recently been reported than is typical. Does this concern you? What, if anything, should the U.S. do in response? Explain.
A: Yes, this does concern me. Russia has become increasingly belligerent over the last few years, and the president has done little to deter them. The US needs to make it clear to Russia that it will not tolerate continued incursions, and Congress should be ready to pass additional sanctions If things continue to escalate.
Q: Would you support the free distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine to all U.S. residents? How would this be paid for? Explain.
A: Yes, absolutely. The only way to permanently save our country from this pandemic is widespread vaccination. There are a variety of ways to fund this, whether through FEMA or direct appropriations from Congress, but mass vaccination is an urgent need, not just to address the healthcare crisis but to get our economy back on its feet.
Q: In what ways, if any, should the country decrease reliance on oil and gas in favor of more renewable sources of energy? Explain.
A: We need to double down on our investment in renewable energy in our state. Alaska should be a leader on this front because we have it all: solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, and others. We should also work to convert our federal fleet to electric vehicles, and incentives states and municipalities to do the same.
Q: The Trump administration recently announced a plan to open the full 1.65 million-acre coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas leasing, sparking a series of lawsuits from environmental protection groups and the Gwich’in Nation over alleged violations of Indigenous land rights. Do you feel the Gwich’in people should have been directly consulted by the Bureau of Land Management on this issue? Explain.
A: I have long believed that responsible resource development is possible in Alaska, but that it must be done in consultation with impacted communities, and in particular Alaska Natives. The federal government has a particularly bad track record when it comes to consultation, and as your senator I will work hard to educate them on the particular needs of Alaska.