In the race for the District 30 Alaska State House seat, Republican nominee Ron Gillham is running against petition candidate James Baisden. State House District 30 includes Kenai and Soldotna. Gillham sat with the Clarion for an interview Wednesday , however, provided prewritten answers to the questions below in lieu of a formal interview. The answers are published as written by Gillham.
Why did you decide to run for state house?
Gillham: I closely follow our legislative sessions. For the past 2 years I didn’t feel we were getting the type of representation we elected our representative to give us. I actually made the decision to challenge him in February of 2018 when he voted for himself to be speaker of the house in what he later bragged to be a “A slight of hand”.
Party politics played a big role in the last legislative session, especially in the district you’re running for. What is your plan to approach that challenge and do what needs to be done down in Juneau?
I have already been working on that. I have worked hard to build relationships with many legislators and financial experts such as past OMB director, Donna Arduin, in order to try and find the path to right government spending and build a sustainable budget. By doing this, when I get to Juneau, I have already built the relationships that we must have in order to work together. It is going to take a majority of the legislators working together as a team to make the hard decision that must be made to get our state back on track.
In looking at the state’s budget, do you think that we can afford a “full PFD” as others are calling for? And in general how do you see the budget discussion playing out next year?
Gillham: First of all, we must follow the law and the law says that the state “shall” pay a full statutory dividend. The majority of the money taken from the people is still sitting in an account so it is accessible to be used to pay a full dividend.
The new POMV statute passed in 2018 is in conflict with the statute that defines the traditional calculation. The POMV or percent of market value has some huge drawbacks. The 5% maximum draw could hurt the state in a big way. Say oil climbs back to $100 a barrel, only 5% of the current market value of the PF could be used. The rest would have to be placed into the corpus where it would not be accessible. If we had a $4 Billion dollar deficit and the oil taxes brought in $5 Billion or a return of a little more than 7% and the current value of the corpus was $68 Billion all we could use would be 5% of the corpus or $3.4 billion. The balance or $1.6 billion would not be accessible because of the 5% POMV maximum draw.
Any changes to the dividend should go to a vote by the people.
What would you prioritize when it comes to balancing the state’s budget?
Gillham: We are going to have a 2+ Billion-dollar deficit by the time the legislation reconvenes in January. It has taken years to get to this point and it is going to take a few to get out of it. In my opinion, the most important starting point is a constitutional spending cap, one that cannot be breached. According to one expert we could have a spending limit on or a revenue limit or maybe both. 4 states have revenue limits, 23 states have spending limits and 3 states have both. There are plenty of examples to look at. It will be up to the legislation to choose which would be best for our state. The limit cannot be a hard number, it is going to have to be connected to our actual income. The spending cap we have now is treated as just a suggestion. Without an enforceable spending cap, I don’t feel it is possible to stop overspending. In order to get our budget back to a sustainable level EVERYONE is going to have to feel it, not just those in the private sector.
So if you were in the House next session, would you be pushing the state to fund things like education and bond debt reimbursement?
Gillham: A good education is paramount to a healthy community. It is a vital obligation of government and one the 3 mandated functions of the government. But … Out of 50 states Alaska is rated 49th in school efficiencies yet 2nd in cost per child. With some of the finest teachers in the country where is the problem? We need to start looking into the administration and change what is broken. Here on the peninsula we are very fortunate to have some of the finest teachers in the state but overall, we have problems. We must hold those in charge accountable for the failures and the successes of our school systems. The funding of our schools should not follow the student. Schools should not be funded for students that are not attending. Bond debt reimbursement is a nice want-to-have by the school districts but there has never been a guaranteed reimbursement by the state. The districts went into debt hoping the state would pay their debt for them. Times are very difficult all over the state and the funds available may not be able to cover bond debt reimbursement. If the state had the fund, I think it should be a priority. But in these current times, it may not be possible.
Moving on to the pandemic, is there anything that the state Legislature should do next session to help keep the Kenai Peninsula’s economy afloat as COVID-19 continues to affect the state?
Gillham: To start off with, mandated covid policies should not violate constitutional rights. They must follow reputable science. Shutting down business and the economy due to panic and fear is not helping. It is more damaging than catching covid-19. Destroying people’s lives, livelihoods and businesses for no good reason is unconstitutional. We need to keep our state and our cities open as long as it is safe to do so and not be scared into hiding in our homes unnecessarily. The constitution states if government takes away there must be just compensation. I believe the state and the federal governments have responsibility to restore to the people what they have taken by mandating shutdowns. We also have to realize there is a delicate balance in making sure we are not bankrupting our government.
We must manage the pandemic effectively by using reputable science and not scare tactics.
As cases start to rise on the peninsula and around the state, do you think that the state government should be doing anything more with Public Health to slow the infection rate?
Gillham: I believe that testing should be provided free to the public free of cost so that everyone that needs a test can get tested. I believe that personal responsibility should be a huge part of containing the pandemic.
If you feel you are at risk, then be responsible to protect yourself. If you want to wear a mask then wear one. If you want to quarantine in your home then do what makes you feel safe. If the science does not warrant an action, then we cannot force anyone to do anything that is against their constitutional rights.
Why should voters choose you over your opponent?
Gillham: Honest and integrity. I may not always tell you what you want to hear but I will always tell you the truth.
I am a successful private sector small business owner. I have worked over 30 years in the oilfield as a superintendent & foreman where I supervised upwards of 100 employees. Unlike government, I had to work with hard budgets and deadlines. I was not afforded the option to appropriate more time or funds if I miscalculated somewhere. I know what it takes to get a job done. While in Juneau I am going to have to work with many individuals who have their own ideas as will I, but we are all working for the same end results, what is best for the future of Alaska and our children. I will not sacrifice my integrity for personal gain. I am going to Juneau to be a representative of the people of district 30.