Beth Wythe makes run for District 31 seat

Beth Wythe makes run for District 31 seat

In running for House District 31 Representative, Homer Mayor Beth Wythe follows a time-tested approach: earn experience and name recognition in local politics and take the jump to the state level.

Hers is a voice heard twice a month for the past 12 years on KBBI AM 890’s broadcasts of Homer City Council meetings. She served eight years on the council and will have served two terms as mayor as of this October.

Wythe, 56, also is no newcomer to Homer. She grew up in Oregon and Washington and moved to Homer in 1973 with her family as a teenager. She graduated from Homer High School. Wythe has worked at Homer Electric Association for almost 30 years and in human resources for more than 25 years.

If elected, Wythe said she plans to retire from HEA. She would trade another role in Juneau from her previous one. In December, she graduated from the University of Alaska Southeast with a masters of public administration and had previously earned a bachelor of business administration for UAS. She did most of her course work through distance education.

In high school, Wythe met her husband, John Wythe, when she tutored him in algebra.

The son of Eileen Wythe and stepson of Ray Kranich, John Wythe comes from two of Homer’s pioneering families. He works at Homer Public Works as lead equipment operator. They have two children, Katelyn and Kevin.

1) What level of budget do you support and how would you balance that budget?

“I think the question of the (fiscal) gap is do you have the revenues to sustain the budget without accessing the reserve funds? …

The budget, ideally if we are going to continue to be reliant on oil and gas, which is a very variable form of income … Our maximum needs to be based on some sort of a formula.

If we had reserved adequately to cover that gap for a short time, we would not be in that situation we are now …We didn’t have good restraint. …

Personally, what I would do is immediately start looking at what the alternatives are. The city of Homer kind of did this same thing. We provided ourselves with a window by using revenues from some other sources and allocating them back to the general fund to buy time to do the legwork of looking at the whole picture. … In my mind, any action that is redirecting Permanent Fund revenues should only be thought of in that context. …

If you have that honest discussion and people see all we can afford is to have schools and maintain the roads. … It gives them the option to say, You know what, I’m good with the basic package … Or, saying, well, we would like you to help us find a way to help us increase the revenue. …

There’s this sense of if we restructure the Permanent Fund we can continue government as usual and so we don’t have to work as hard figuring alternative sources of revenue, we don’t have to work as hard at revisiting programs to see if they’re appropriate or viable. … To me that’s not the solution. That’s a temporary Band-Aid to get you to the real solution, which is alternative sources of revenues or reduced services to fit into the revenues you’re going to have. …

When you come to an income tax, you’re moving the responsibility for balancing the state budget to just shy of 68 percent of the population. Of that 68 percent there’s going to be a large share that either don’t pay federal income tax or pay a very small income tax. And so you’re reducing the pool that you to draw on. … It was proposed that it would generate the greatest revenue in an equitable manner. It would generate some revenue, but the conversation, is it equitable if you’re narrowing down the group of people that are actually paying? …If you add personal tax, it’s not going to be enough revenue to cover the government we have today. I don’t think it’s going to be enough revenue for a scaled down government.”

2) If elected, and if the Legislature considered it, would you vote to repeal the citizen initiative (2014’s Ballot Measure 2) that made marijuana legal for personal and medical use as well as commercial production and sale?

“You know, I didn’t want to be the deciding vote if it was going to be an industry in Homer. Personally, I don’t feel like it’s a healthy industry for Alaska.

I don’t think it’s going to be the cash crop people think it is. …

If you look at my voting record, I have a high voting record for supporting the will of the voters … That is a high bar for me. I personally cannot vote in support of that … I would vote against the continuation of the sales industry in Alaska.”

3) How can Alaska lessen its dependence on oil and gas tax revenues and expand its economy in other ways? What do you see as Alaska’s post-petroleum economy?

“In my mind Alaskans know how to help the Alaska economy grown and sustain. They need to be part of that solution. They don’t need to be told what that solution is.

How do we expand on what’s already working and grow that so it creates industry that’s exportable? …

Homer is an example of (high tech). We are Alaska’s Google e-commerce community. We have quite a lot of people accessing tech to create business. …

In the big picture, I can see us becoming a much bigger trade and commerce hub if we can get production activities happening here in different ways. …

Find a way to benefit from those resources and still protecting the environment … How do we turn that into a more viable production and product for the state of Alaska and citizens of Alaska? …

There’s a lot of hard work to be done. It requires the residents and it requires people rolling up their sleeves and saying this is what I want to do with my time.”

4) Do you think it is best for Republicans to decide issues in caucus and present a united front in legislature, or do you think act foremost is in the interest of their district? How would you work within your party and at the same time represent the interest of the district?

“I am running on a Republican platform. For me, that tells my voters that is what my conservative values look like. I’m aligned with the conservative values in the platform.

My perception is there is a lot of conversation taking place. It might be in session and at ease. …

To me when you work with an organization and a group you’re not always going to get what you want. You’re going to make every effort you can to make sure they understand the needs of your area. …

When you go with the platform or the Republican part, you make your best effort to make it be what is … if it fails, you don’t go out and work against these people. …You’re there working as a Republican. … People look at that platform and presume that’s what you’re elected to do. … They would like to rely on the Republican caucus to function as the Republican caucus. …

If there are things that are not a Republican Party platform issue, certainly I would go there and represent what’s best for our district that’s going to be a nonpartisan issue. … but if there are party line issues, you want to make sure there are issues you’re following the party line for. …

I think that most transparent government you can get is the best government you can get.”

5) What big opportunities is Alaska missing?

“I think the biggest opportunity that was missed was not doing a restructure of how we finance our government the first time or the second time we had this revenue slump due to oil prices and not taking advantage of figuring out how we don’t do it again. …

Any program should be put in place with what I consider benchmarks. We’re going to do this program and check it in two years… It’s hard to eliminate a program when you don’t have automatic benchmarks and stop points. …”

6) If Alaska could get a do-over and change anything in its history or how it acted, what would that be?

“Oil and gas tax credits — that’s some space for a do over. One of the biggest complaints you hear from oil and gas is our regulations change so frequently they can’t make a big investment or long term change; the plan has changed. …

Building it not with some back door protection so the maximum amount of money that can be contributed to tax credits and exploration cannot be more than some defined amount of production, so if revenues are down, what you’re paying out in tax credits should never exceed what you’re earning in revenues. …”

7) Do you support Donald Trump, who is now the Republican Party’s presidential candidate?

“I am still very leery of Mr. Trump. I need to do more research on his selected running mate. The alternative is I will not be voting Democrat. …

That’s one of those same things that you have with all representation. Are they really representing the party you think you’re a member of? I think that has to kind of pan out a little bit here. …

I never watched (Trump’s) show because I couldn’t deal with his bombast. I have to deal with him from that perspective, that he is a TV personality and so when he is representing himself in this election, he’s doing it from that foundation. …If you go back and look at TV personalities as real individuals in the world, they don’t’ function that way. They have this really big persona when they’re on stage. That’s the part I want to find, that piece of him who is that person that he is when he’s representing himself when he’s not on the stage.

He obviously has some redeeming qualities. He’s raised responsible children. That’s no easy feat.”

 

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

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