1. Are there problems with the state’s current oil tax structure? If so, what is the best approach to fix them? If not, please explain how and why the status quo is working.
Mike Chenault: Yes, there are problems with the current oil tax structure. The Legislature needs to ensure we have a competitive tax structure that will encourage more investment in the state. It would be irresponsible to continue to do nothing with the current decline in oil production. If we continue on that downward slope, the state will experience major budget problems and cuts to existing programs since our savings will not last forever and there will not be enough time to create new revenue sources.
2. What role should the Legislature play in ensuring the future energy security of Alaska?
Chenault: We need to follow through on the energy policy set by the Legislature in previous sessions. It is also imperative we look at diversifying our energy sources such as an in-state gasline and the Susitna Hyrdo Project. The Legislature needs to provide the tools to the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation to proceed with their plans to develop an in-state gasline. The House passed legislation last session to ensure AGDC’s ability to move a project forward but it ended up stalled in the Senate. This gasline project will secure an energy supply that should be sustainable for the next one-hundred years. The Susitna Hydro project is another source of long-term renewable energy that I support. The Legislature can pave the way for this project to proceed through statute changes that may be needed and through funding.
3. Last session, there was a debate on whether to address rising costs to school districts with an increase in the funding formula, or through appropriations to address specific needs. Where do you stand on this issue?
Chenault: The House has been reviewing our educational system and funding needs. We must ensure we provide necessary funds that will give our kids the tools to compete. This can be accomplished through either the foundation formula or other appropriations. Many would like to see accountability issues addressed before throwing more money into the educational system. Separate appropriations may be used to address specific needs such as rising energy costs, major maintenance, wage increases to name a few. I do support an increase in the foundation formula but I also want to ensure we are providing the best education with the funds we are appropriating.
4. How should Alaskans vote on Ballot Measure 2, establishment of a Coastal Management Program? Why?
Chenault: That is a decision each individual Alaskan will have to make, however, I am voting no on Ballot Measure 2. The House provided a solution in 2011 and the Senate chose not to agree or even negotiate a solution. The proposal is too onerous with too many unknown variables.
5. What economic challenges does your district in the next 5 years? How do you see yourself addressing those challenges in the Legislature?
Chenault: The Peninsula faces many economic challenges from fishing to Cook Inlet oil and gas. There is a need to address the reasons why sport and commercial fishing failed this past season. The state needs to investigate and find solutions so this does not occur on a regular basis. Biology is not an exact science but we have to give managers the tools to ensure as much as humanly possible that our runs do not fail. Oil and gas exploration in Cook Inlet needs to be encouraged but this is not the only means to secure our energy future Again, as I previously stated, an in-state gasline will enhance whatever is found in Cook Inlet and will provide jobs and energy security which may lead to an improved economy by attracting new business and more importantly, jobs for our residents.