Q&A with Sen. Gary Stevens, Rep. Paul Seaton

  • Tuesday, November 1, 2016 4:18pm
  • Opinion

1. What will it take for lawmakers to reach agreement on addressing Alaska’s budget issues?

Paul Seaton, House District 31: Constituents need to let their legislators know they want a sustainable fiscal plan passed to solve the state’s number one problem. The legislature needs to organize around that as their number one priority and insure that the elements of such a plan will come to the floor for a vote.

Gary Stevens, Senate District P: In vetoing the PFD from $2,000 to $1,000 the Governor has given the legislature time to consider all options for increasing revenue, cutting the budget, reducing oil tax credits, considering the possibility of reestablishing an income tax, increasing corporate taxes, establishing an S Corporation tax, and of using some portion of the Earning Reserves of the Permanent Fund. Everything is on the table and this coming session will be primarily devoted to budget issues. These are serious matters that must be carefully considered and the public must have an opportunity to give their input. With limited savings there is no more time to waste. The legislature realizes that and I believe will address all these issue this session.

2. Where in the state budget do you see potential for additional cuts?

Paul Seaton, House District 31: Efficiency can always be found in the way services are provided. However, after the rounds of cuts in the last 3 years most of the large savings have been achieved and new revenue is needed if the services are to be continued. The state has a number of programs that distribute money: community assistance (municipal revenue sharing), oil production tax credits, education tax credits, senior benefits, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF beyond the 60 months lifetime benefit from federal funds), school bond debt reimbursement, and the PFD (or a lower formula amount). However, each of these benefits Alaskan society in specific ways that must be considered and balanced against any savings. The legislature can also reduce costs of operation as we have started with 5 days of mandated employee furlough.

Gary Stevens, Senate District P:Unfortunately cuts will have to occur throughout the budget. No budget is sacred and every attempt will be made to reduce expenses where they will do the least damage. This means every attempt will be made to work with every department and institution to identify cuts.

3. What measures will you support to generate additional revenue?

Paul Seaton, House District 31: I support an income tax similar to the state tax we had until 1980. A progressive tax is needed to balance the regressive reduction of the Permanent Fund Dividend which will occur. All families need to contribute to the services provided by the state but the impact needs to be as equitable as possible. A sales and use tax is generally more regressive but might be acceptable if it is uncapped and no exclusions were granted. Taxing on the full value makes it less regressive because higher income people buy more expensive items. If land, houses, vehicles, oil rigs, boats, and all services are included as the use tax of bringing anything into the state it could bring in an equal amount of revenue. The conflict with local sales taxes and mostly targeting residents would be problems that make it less attractive as a structure. Restructuring oil and gas taxes is necessary, as well as an increase in motor fuel tax from our lowest per gallon tax in the nation.

Gary Stevens, Senate District P:I have voted along with the majority of Senators to make use of the Earnings Reserve of the Permanent Fund. I would support reduction in oil tax credits, increasing corporate taxes, and income tax

4. If elected, do you have plans to file any legislation? On what issues?

Paul Seaton, House District 31: Sustainable Fiscal Plan similar to HB-365 version P from last year which is available on my web site VotePaulSeaton.com under the fiscal plan index.

Gary Stevens, Senate District P:I am working on legislation in the area of public education and post-secondary education. I want to see Civics Education practiced throughout our school districts so that students are more involved in their government, in voting, in civic engagement and that they know the value of being an American Citizen. I would like to encourage more students to fill out the FAFSA application and become aware to the Federal and State assistance available to them should they choose to go on to a college or vocational institution.

5. What do you think about the current direction of the Alaska LNG Project?

Paul Seaton, House District 31: In the current economic climate I do not have much hope for AKLNG in the short term, but want to be sure the permitting stage is completed so we are most prepared if or when the world economics change to make the project profitable.

Gary Stevens, Senate District P:I think the Governor is headed in the right direction. We must line up customers and get a financial commitment before constructing a pipeline. If the customers and industry are unwilling to be involved I think the State would be foolish to put our own money on the line.

6. How can voters reach you?

Paul Seaton, House District 31: My web site is VotePaulSeaton.com and people can email me at Paul@VotePaulSeaton.com.

Gary Stevens, Senate District P: For campaign issues they can contact me at sengarylstevens@yahoo.com. For work related business please contact me at Sen.Gary.Stevens@akleg.gov or by telephone at 907-486-4925.

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