Les Gara. (Courtesy photo / Les Gara)

Les Gara. (Courtesy photo / Les Gara)

Alaska Voices: Putting people’s interests first

I believe everyone deserves an equal voice in their government

  • Tuesday, June 7, 2022 11:49pm
  • Opinion

By Les Gara and Jessica Cook

Good leaders represent everyone, not just those with outsized wealth and influence. It’s why I’m running for governor. This has become a state where you prosper if you’re already prosperous, and you often get a cold shoulder if you’re not. Most Alaskans have been turned against each other to battle over support for good schools, our children and elders, a PFD, and the things that make life better.

I believe our fish should benefit Alaskans first, not Outside corporate factory trawlers that dump over 1,000 tons of halibut, salmon and crab to the bottom of the ocean.

I believe everyone deserves an equal voice in their government. This governor has allowed wealthy donors and lobbyists to spend as much as they want to get their candidates elected. Unlimited campaign spending drowns out your voices.

When our $500 limit on campaign contributions was struck down by a closely divided 2-1 court last year, I and others called on Gov. Dunleavy to appeal that ruling. He refused.

Then the court ordered him to appeal that ruling or explain his refusal. He refused to appeal again. When he was called on to file legislation to establish new campaign donation limits, he again refused. I’ll pass election spending limits.

We should support good schools, job training, renewable energy projects, and the things that create opportunity. This governor supports $1.2 billion in unjustifiable state subsidies to the wealthiest oil companies in the world. He spent his first three years in office claiming we were too poor to support schools and the things that create a future for people.

Today, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, oil prices have skyrocketed. Crippling oil prices have given the state government a temporary spike in oil revenue. Temporary blood money isn’t a plan for the future.

You deserve a governor who has a plan when oil prices fall after Russia’s war is over, not one who’ll use the return to lower oil prices as an excuse to plead state poverty again.

Before Russia’s war caused this spike in oil prices, the governor proposed the same “plan” we’ll see again if he’s reelected, and that I disagreed with.

After getting elected, he attempted to cut a devastating quarter-billion dollars from our public schools.

He twice tried to empty $1 billion from Alaska’s Power Cost Equalization fund, which Alaska needs to lower energy costs.

With no plan, he then attempted to take an extra $3 billion from our permanent fund. That would have been the biggest raid on the permanent fund in state history. Republican and Democratic legislators blocked that raid.

For three years, he made us too poor to move schools and needed construction, renewable energy, and local community projects forward. He pled poverty while giving away $1.2 billion in state subsidies to the wealthiest oil companies in the world.

I believe we should use Alaska’s oil, while there is still world demand for it, to fund jobs, world-class schools, world-class renewable energy projects, and the things that help build a better future.

That’s why I voted against these unaffordable oil company subsidies as a legislator. As a state senator in 2013, Dunleavy cast the deciding vote to enact them.

I’ve voted to support responsible resource development. But as owners of Alaska’s oil, we should be equal partners with the oil industry, not junior partners.

I believe the massive, toxic Pebble Mine threatens our greatest salmon runs. Gov. Dunleavy has spent your money on lawyers to side with Canadian Pebble Mine executives and against Alaskans who rely on fish for food, income, and sport.

This governor has spent millions subsidizing private mining roads. Responsible projects stand on their own. In the Susitna Valley and Kobuk River region, he’s spent your money to support corporate mine prospects, many of which we know little about. I agree with former Gov. Jay Hammond, who I was friends with. If mining can’t pay its own way, we shouldn’t use the people’s money to subsidize it.

Jessica Cook and I both grew up without our parents and without privilege. We know from experience that putting people first and creating opportunity for all matters.

Jessica has put children first as a teacher and elected education leader.

I’ve voted to put our students, children, elders, and future first as a legislator.

That’s what we’ll do as your governor and lieutenant governor.

Les Gara is a former legislator and asst. attorney general on the civil prosecution of Exxon after the Exon Valdez Oil Spill. He lives in Anchorage.

Jessica Cook is a public school teacher, former vice president of both Alaska’s and Anchorage’s education associations, and lives in Palmer.

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