1. What will it take for lawmakers to reach agreement on addressing Alaska’s budget issues?
Gary Knopp (Republican): Thoughtful and meaningful conversations. A realization that the fiscal climate is real and will not go away without some sort of action. Willingness to compromise. Strong leadership and good facilitation in the budget discussions. Every legislator has issues with using PFD earnings reserves, oil & gas tax credits, the state’s operating budget, lack of a diversified revenue stream (taxes). Every legislator needs to understand they will have to make concessions on these issues in order to solve the fiscal issues.
Daniel Lynch (Non-Partisan): Maturity, sincere concern for all Alaskans right now and generations to come. The legislators who are members of political parties will have to put aside their power plays, and silly socially divisive games, that always bring us to “GRIDLOCK” and not “common sense solutions” when we are facing a very serious CANCER that can be defeated. Our State can get back to full health and the promise and healthy opportunity that all Alaskans crave. I believe, to attain this success lawmakers will have to distance themselves from all “special interest” groups, lobbyists, PACs and Personal Egos. Isolation while healing is good for the MIND, BODY and Soul. We must focus on the Reality of the Big Picture, and not the fantasy of doubling of oil prices merely pacifying our constituents through the next election cycle. The bottom line question Has to be… Is it constitutionally mandated? Or is it fluff? Yes or no.
J.R. Myers (Alaska Constitution): It will take a realization that our state government is too large. We need to understand that a sustainable budget is $3.5 – 4.0 billion dollars. We need to have a limited government commensurate with our small population base. We do not need to seek additional revenues. We do not need statewide sales or income taxes. We need to understand that regressive steps, such as the veto of over half the PFD, is the worst possible economic policy and will only deepen the current recession we are in. We need to cast aside partisan gridlock in service to the best interests of all Alaskans. We must realize that partisan jockeying for power, shameless lobbying and ceaseless campaign fundraising have led to our current economic crisis. Special interests groups dominate Juneau to the detriment of average Alaskans. We cannot continue to sacrifice the private economy to benefit the government sector. We need to remove the professional politicians from power.
Shauna Thornton (Democrat): It is going to take a willingness to work together and focus on solutions. Compromise, conversations, transparency, and good faith with our constituents will also be important as we move forward. Building relationships and rolling up our sleeves and getting to work. I have the drive, and stamina to achieve this.
Exploring new revenue and projects that will take us to a more balanced economy that is stable, and can weather the boom and bust cycle of the oil and fishing industries. Boosting infrastructure in areas that will enhance these new revenue streams. It will be important to come to the table without the bullying that was present last legislative session, the stalemates and non-communicative stances that were taken are appalling. Special interests and special projects that are not viable should not be started.
2. Where in the state budget do you see potential for additional cuts?
Gary Knopp: Whenever there’s a need to trim a budget you naturally look to your largest line items in the budget. This would be health & social services, education, and our university system. I believe they will be looked at again. Although the rest of the state departments’ combined budgets are only a fraction of the overall budget I believe there is still some to be given up. With almost ten years of $100 per barrel oil you know that there has been a lot of wants versus needs inserted in the department budgets. I have identified numerous issues in various departments such as Dept. of Transportation, Weights & Measures, Dept. of Environmental Conservation, Dept. of Motor Vehicles, Fish & Game, and others. It should be incumbent on legislators in tough fiscal times to separate the wants and the needs so as to minimize impacts to essential services. Corporate America in tough fiscal times is really good at doing more with less. It’s a practice state government will have to adopt in order to help get its house in order. I don’t expect any of these budget decisions to be easy, and definitely not popular, but they will be absolutely essential.
Daniel Lynch: In the aforementioned answer, the question will be, Is it constitutionally mandated or is it fluff? In my 20 plus years in Alaska it has come to my attention that we have a very bad habit in Juneau-made decisions of “Socializing our Losses” and “Privatizing their Profits”. Recall… Taj Mahawker L.I.O., Knik Arm Bridge, federal and state dollars pay for and build … private companies collects tolls, Anchorage Port Expansion… hundreds of millions in profit to somebody, but still no Port improvement. 100 million dollars in astroturf fields to be replaced on 10 years. Oops we don’t make astroturf in our state, bye-bye money, we do grow sod in the valley … oh well. Oil and Gas Tax credits and cash payments? Need I say more?
Now the idea is for a private-public partnership for the Kodiak Launch Complex (white elephant). I would suggest we have a fire sale … maybe Space Ex, Mr Elon Musk, or another entity. Perhaps even Japan would like to purchase the facility. Fresh money- fresh thoughts, that’s what starts Real Diversity.
I would also suggest cutting all state spending for Primary Elections for private political parties. It’s not a constitutional requirement to fund a beauty contest for private groups. If the R’s and D’s, etc. would like to “rent our opti-scanners” and public buildings, that would come in the form of gains, not losses to the State.
J.R. Myers: We need to reduce the state budget to a sustainable level of $3.5-4 billion dollars. First, we must ferret out all waste, fraud and abuse. Then we need to implement an across the board cut. This is the best way to avoid endless special interest lobbying to protect one program over another. Another aspect requiring further exploration is the utilization of dedicated lands, such as those held by the Mental Health Trust Authority and the University system. These lands were set aside to be used as resources for the funding of education and human services. Further, their lease and/or sales will stimulate the private economy and further Alaska’s private sector development. Additional tax revenues would be realized once such properties were put into private production.
Shauna Thornton: There are many areas to cut excess spending, I found that in the budget for the LIO office in Anchorage there was an expenditure for actually shopper in the amount of 100K that is excessive. There are many Per diem infractions that should be discussed.
In every instance as legislators it should be our jobs to discuss openly and frankly the budget situation and come up with solutions. Tax incentives need to be discussed in lean times we are giving tax incentives, and the companies are boasting about their profits, incentives from the State should benefit the state not a multi-million dollar corporations. At every turn there are lawsuits and other infractions that could have been avoided by using common sense.
As a citizen I believe that any new taxes, PFD restructuring efforts and major changes should be put to a vote of the people. In the news there are always stories of this spending or that spending, yet we as citizens hear we are in a budget crisis, this needs to be examined and honestly dealt with. Knee Jerk reactions will always have a detrimental effect as we are seeing now.
3. What measures will you support to generate additional revenue?
Gary Knopp: My preference would be to generate additional revenue through economic development ie: resource development, tourism, expansion of the Alaska Railroad system, opening of Alaska lands etc. But the reality is none of these measures will fix the fiscal problem we are currently facing. So, for me right now, every option is on the table. Through discussions I will eventually weed out the ones that I cannot support or I find have very little value. My number one priority is to look at reductions in the operating budget. Secondly, I think the restructuring of the PFD earning reserve is going to be necessary. Third, a review of the oil & gas tax credits. Fourth, consideration of all the other types of tax proposals.
Daniel Lynch: A major portion of my campaign has been dedicated to the idea and implementation of a 5% sales tax dedicated to the State from “Internet Sales Only.” Amazon, Walmart.com, L. L. Bean, etc., Level the field with our brick & mortar neighbors who provide jobs, property taxes, etc. The internet shoppers & merchants need all the State-funded services, airports, roads, ferry system, plow drivers, troopers, etc., but don’t contribute for those services. The internet shoppers are not punished because the 5% to the State is still 1% less than local 6%. Every year, every generation is going there more and more, we must balance things before it’s too late.
I would also endorse, (because we like good roads) a 5 cent/gallon fuel tax increase. This summer fuel cost fell during the driving season (when does that happen?) I could also agree with a 5 cent/gallon increase on beer and spirits, not wine, because of costs involved and per capita consumption.
And finally a small income tax = citizen involvement, then you could say MY MONEY! And we could say thanks to the Outside Fish, Oil and Tourist workers for their contributions; or they could stay home and open up jobs for our residents.
J.R. Myers: Again, we need to focus first on state government waste, fraud and abuse. Then, we need to downsize state government. We cannot afford to expand or institute any new programs. Also, we need to devolve government services to borough and local governments, where possible. Further, we need to inventory state assets, including lands. We need to lease or sell such excess properties for private development. We must have a stable and sustainable model of state government. This will also reassure investors that Alaska is a good place to invest in.
Shauna Thornton: Agriculture, Renewable Energy, Industry, and Technology are a good start. It will be imperative to enhance the revenue we do have through value added opportunities or by growth in new research and development.
4. If elected, do you have plans to file any legislation? On what issues?
Gary Knopp: I do not have any plans to file any legislation at this time. I believe there is a lot of legislation in Statute that I would like to see repealed or modified. As a freshman legislator it is my intent to learn the processes and fully understand the issues. Former Governor Parnell took a strong position on the heavy handiness of the federal government and I have always felt that some of our own state agencies were equally heavy handed. After serving in local government for many years I see many issues in Title 29 that restricts local municipalities from conducting their business as they see fit. There are many issues that are better managed at the local level. I think that the current fiscal situation provides an opportunity for some of these corrections. There is currently a rewrite of Title 4 of the Statutes. I think legislators should occasionally conduct a review of the Statutes for relevance in today’s fast paced world.
Daniel Lynch: Yes, at this point, two. Most importantly they are easy and harmless. #1 CUT…Eliminate all state funding for primary elections, saving between 2 to 5 million dollars per primary. #2 REVENUE…Implementation of 5% Sales Tax dedicated to the STATE from Internet Sales Tax only (Marketplace Fairness Act). Twenty plus states now collect…. Estimated 23 billion dollars left on the table from States that don’t collect. Large population areas, read Anchorage (no sales tax) would contribute to state coffers… they get most benefits, they should help.
J.R. Myers: Yes, there are several areas in which I would file or support new legislation. First and foremost is the restoration and protection of the PFD. I would seek to make sure that the entire remaining amount of this years PFD (+$1,000) is sent out to the people of Alaska as soon as possible.
I would only support a sustainable budget of $3.5-4 billion dollars.
I would seek to bolster Alaskans privacy by ending all data collection and sharing programs, such a facial recognition software and the statewide pharmaceutical database.
I would fight to implement comprehensive election law reform. I would fight to establish uniform candidate and political party requirements and standards. I would introduce legislation to abolish all publicly financed political party primaries. These would be replaced by candidate signature petitions, or nomination via party convention. I would introduce legislation to require a verifiable paper ballot. I would seek legislation to facilitate poll watching and implement safeguards on ballot counting.
I oppose both ballot measures. I oppose linking voter registration to the PFD, and I oppose increasing state bond sales to subsidize higher education.
Shauna Thornton: Healthcare rates are staggeringly unaffordable to many Alaskans this needs to be addressed.
Legislation that restructures tax incentives and gives small businesses the same playing field as larger business.
Homelessness, drug addiction and how we address re-entry after incarceration are necessary for healthy communities.
5. What do you think about the current direction of the Alaska LNG Project?
Gary Knopp: I think the project for the most part is probably not going to happen at this point in time. I was hopeful that we had found a market with the Japanese after their devastating earthquake and their desire to change their power generation from nuclear methods to more conventional methods (LNG). After industry partners determined it was not a viable project and pulled their support for the project it has persuaded me that it is probably a project too risky for us as a state to pursue on our own. Having said that, I am still supportive and think that we should aggressively pursue the ASAP (Alaska Stand Alone Pipeline) project. This project has the potential for bringing one of the largest social and economic benefits to Alaska since Prudhoe Bay: bringing a clean, affordable and most importantly, a reliable source of energy to most of Alaska’s northern and southcentral regions. It will ultimately benefit every single resident of our state.
Daniel Lynch: Is quicksand a direction? But seriously, her we go again, by having tunnel vision, and throwing money at bad ideas, does not make things work like they might have 35 years ago. A new pipeline from the North Slope to Asia is obsolete and antiquated. Do we need to market the gas? YES! We sure do, we need the revenue. Would Asia like it? You betcha! (Sarahism) Is ExxonMobil building 5 L.N.G. Tankers with icebreaking capabilities right now? Check it out! Could we ship from the L.N.G. tankers being retrofitted for production & storage? Check it out! Could we ship from the conditioning plant “on the slope” 8 months ice free? Could we store L.N.G. in old tankers in the Aleutian chain for year-round shipping to Asia? Could we do these things in half the time at half the cost? Before the global market is saturated? I guess only if our Corporate Masters say we can. Should the State invest our 25% in icebreaker L.N.G. Tankers and the Big Three invest in the conditioning plant and loading issues with their 75% partnership? If this were to happen…. Would it eliminate 20,000 outside workers & followers bum-rushing the state (read T.A.P.s line) then comes the bust with the deadbeats left behind? But in the potential scenario described, could our state citizens still realize good employment and market the gas? Or do you prefer quicksand?
J.R. Myers: What the Governor is proposing is historically known as fascism. That is state controlling interest or partnership in corporate endeavors. Some call it Crony Capitalism. It is a system whereby those in power determine the flow of wealth to their friends and supporters. This creates and artificial have and have not system. We have watched this disconcerting trend grow for years in Juneau and throughout Alaska. The political elite seek to have their way through subterfuge and deception without regard for the people of Alaska. It seems more important for them to establish a political legacy then to do the right thing for our future. The Alaska LNG Project, as currently envisioned, could indeed by the final nail in the coffin for Alaska. We cannot let the prideful egos of the Juneau cabal succeed in this foolhardy scheme. I support diversification of our energy production and grid through the development of micro-generating capacity of coal, gas, geothermal, hydro, tidal, solar, wind, biomass and increased energy efficiency. We do not need to put all of our eggs into one basket. Sacrificing our economic future for a political pipe dream currently known as the LNG Project is folly.
Shauna Thornton: As the project stands it is a risk to Alaska’s financial future in many ways. It is going to be necessary to examine the details and not use this project as a way to politically maneuver the public with the hope of jobs. This project has been on the slate for over 25 years and is still not built. The project as it stands now should not be built there is not a viable market for the product.
6. How can voters reach you?
Gary Knopp: Phone: 283-9494
Daniel Lynch: Buy filling in the oval next to the name LYNCH then I’ll be on call all the time for the next 2 years. Use all the ink you like, you paid for it with half your dividend! Before that…. call me at 262-2570 or to the website for info, OLDANL.org or email email@example.com
“Your Interest” are my only “Special Interest”
J.R. Myers: I am available and happy to speak to Alaskans. Voters may reach me several ways. They may phone me at 907-690-5200. They may e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
They may instant message me through my Facebook account at www.facebook.com/J.R.MYERSfor
AlaskaHouse2016. They may twitter me at J.R. Myers @JohricmyeJ
Shauna Thornton:Voters can reach me:
Cell Phone: 907-598-1171
Facebook: Shauna Thornton for AK State House- Kenai/Soldotna