Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, speaks to constituents during a town hall at the Betty J. Glick Assembly Chambers in Soldotna, Alaska on Jan. 16, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, speaks to constituents during a town hall at the Betty J. Glick Assembly Chambers in Soldotna, Alaska on Jan. 16, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Micciche releases results of annual survey

Locals weigh in on budget, taxes and state spending

Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, released Thursday the results of his annual survey polling his constituents on a number of issues currently facing the state.

In a newsletter attached to the survey results, Micciche said the survey better helps him understand the community’s values and choices while he works in Juneau.

“I know that not everyone likes the question and answer choices, but our team does our best to provide likely scenarios facing us here in the capitol,” he said in the newsletter.

Micciche also spoke with the Clarion on Saturday to discuss the results of the survey.

The data from the survey is based on answers to 18 different questions from 866 respondents. The survey asked for each respondent’s name, zip code and email address in order to confirm that they were residents of District O and to prevent duplicate submissions. Not all respondents answered each question.

Question 1: What do you believe should be Legislature’s top priority?

Out of 849 respondents, 34% said that reductions in state spending should be the top priority. Increasing education spending was the second-most popular answer at 33%. Prioritizing public safety came in at 15%, and 14% said that paying a full permanent fund dividend should be prioritized. Two percent felt that investing in better roads should be the top priority.

“This particular question is interesting because it illustrates a key conflict we struggle to work through in the legislature,” Micciche said in comments included in the survey results. “We know we must reduce wherever possible in order to help make ends meet, but many Alaskans care about the funding of constitutionally required services, such as education. However, the contrast between the two primary choices presents an ironic outcome.”

Question 2: Do you support or oppose a tighter, more effective appropriation cap on government spending?

A significant majority of the 842 respondents, 74%, were either “strongly” or “somewhat” in support of such a spending cap, with only 26% “strongly” or “somewhat” opposed.

Question 3: In your opinion, is current state spending too high, about right, or too low?

Just over half of the 857 respondents, 52%, felt that current state spending is too high. One quarter of the respondents answered that spending is too low, while 18% answered that it was about right.

Question 4: In which areas do you believe there should be reductions to state spending?

This question was answered by all 866 respondents and allowed for multiple answers per person. The most common response was the University of Alaska at 28%, followed by Medicaid and public assistance at 26%. The least popular choice was public safety, with only 4% of respondents calling for cuts in that area.

Question 5: In which areas do you believe there should be no reductions to state spending?

This question is the inverse of the previous question and also allowed for multiple answers. Public safety was the most common answer at 24%, followed by education at 19% and senior services at 17%.

Micciche said on Saturday that the answers to these questions have remained relatively consistent over the years that he has put out the survey.

“People care about public safety, education and seniors on the Kenai, and want reductions in Medicaid, social services and the university,” Micciche said.

Question 6: Do you support or oppose the Governor’s budget even if it means continued reductions to roads, schools, senior services and public safety?

The results of this question were split, with a slight majority of the 853 respondents, 53.2%, opposed to the governor’s budget. Micciche said that he expected the results to lean in the opposite direction, and said that his takeaway from the result is that a small majority of his constituents prefer a balanced approach to the budget.

Question 7: Do you support or oppose payment of a larger PFD even if new taxes would be required to pay Alaska’s bills?

Just over half of the 844 respondents, 57.2%, were opposed to the idea of a larger PFD if it came with new taxes.

Question 8: After all responsible spending reductions are made, do you support or oppose payment of a larger Permanent Fund Dividend even if it means significantly less money for schools, roads and troopers?

A majority of the 855 respondents, 62.8%, were opposed to the idea of reductions in funding for essential services for the sake of a larger PFD.

Question 9: Assuming oil prices stay low in future years, please choose the statement which best reflects your fiscal position.

The most common answer from the 809 respondents was “After making all possible responsible spending reductions, I prefer to receive a smaller PFD than be charged new taxes,” with 36% choosing that response.

Question 10: Do you support or oppose prioritizing state funding for Medicaid, public assistance and social programs to focus on those who are disabled and provide only a short term safety net for the able bodied?

Over three-quarters of the 842 respondents, 77.9% said that they support prioritizing these services for those with disabilities.

Question 11: If you had to choose one tax over another, which of the following would you support? (Sales tax or income tax)

About two-thirds of the 841 respondents, 68%, preferred a sales tax, while 32% said they prefer an income tax.

Question 12: Do you support or oppose moderately increasing the motor fuel tax if directed as a user fee toward improving road maintenance?

Three-quarters of the 841 respondents, 76%, were in favor of increasing the motor fuel tax.

Micciche said on Saturday that he noticed his constituents have gradually become more in favor of additional sources of revenue, specifically an increase in the state’s motor fuel tax. Micciche attributed this shift to a perceived frustration from constituents about the Legislature relying on reductions to the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend in order to address the state’s budget deficit.

“I think people are somewhat tired of the fact that only Alaskans are paying the difference now,” Micciche said. “When you reduce the PFD, it doesn’t affect anyone else.”

Micciche recently voted in favor of SB115, which doubles the state’s motor fuel tax from 8 cents to 16 cents per gallon. SB115 passed the Senate 12-5 on Monday and was sent to the House of Representatives.

“I’m never going to base any of my decisions specifically on a survey,” Micciche said. “But that survey more or less confirmed what I’ve been hearing for the last six months from constituents more than any other issue, including our repeal of Senate Bill 91 and the PFD.” Micciche said.

Question 13: Do you support or oppose an approach similar to Option #5, “A Balanced Approach,” in the Governor’s 10-year plan?

Last December Gov. Mike Dunleavy released a 10-year plan for the state’s budget that included six possible scenarios, with scenario five taking an “all-of-the-above” approach that includes spending reductions, a spending limit, a smaller PFD, a small broad-based tax and a larger contribution from industries. Around two-thirds of the 826 respondents, 65.5% said that they supported this approach to the budget, which Micciche said he found surprising.

“What that question tells me is that Alaskans have kind of had it with the lack of action,” Micciche said. “They want to know what’s going to happen, and they want to see that there’s some value to their PFD, and they want to see that everyone is contributing too.”

Question 14: Should taxes on oil and gas increase?

Over two-thirds of the 836 respondents, 68% said that they support either “modestly” or “significantly” raising oil taxes.

Question 15: Now that SB91 has been repealed and there are new tools in the law enforcement/prosecutor tool box, how do you feel about Alaska’s crime and the public safety response?

About half of the 811 respondents, 48%, said that they felt Alaska’s public safety was improving. One-quarter said that the situation was satisfactory, and 24% said that the situation is declining.

Question 16: Do you agree or disagree that the Court System is applying the tougher criminal justice statutes as intended by the Legislature’s repeal of SB91?

Respondents were split on this question, with 50.3% disagreeing and 49.3% agreeing.

Question 17: Do you support or oppose oil development in a small part of the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?

Seventy percent of respondents were in support of ANWR development, with 54% strongly supporting the idea.

Question 18: Do you believe that the Legislature should remain in Juneau for all or part of the time or meet on the road system for better public access?

Half of the respondents said that the Legislature should meet on the road system for the entire session, and 29% said that they would like the Legislature to meet on the road system for part of the time.

The full results of Micciche’s survey can be found on the senator’s Facebook page.

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