1. What will be your top legislative priorities during the upcoming session?
Ron Devon: Gas line to Nikiski: A Nikiski line will create good paying jobs that can support a family. Nikiski makes sense, and I will fight hard for that outcome, working with whomever it takes to make it happen. That’s a promise.
Support fishermen: As a former commercial fisherman, I understand this summer’s disaster. We must insist on state policy accountability, and employ practices that minimize the take of kings while allowing openers for reds. We also need to crack down on users who benefit from our dipnet fishery, but trash our shores.
Defend Personal Liberties: Alaskans are independent freedom-loving people. I was born and raised in rural Alaska, and I absolutely support Alaskans’ rights to live as they choose. I support your right to bear arms, your right to hunt and fish, your right to defend your life, property and family, your right to your own privacy, and the right of your children to a good education. I will always stand for you and the Constitution when those rights are threatened.
Cathy Giessel: Oil Production: Oil revenue funds more than 90% of our Alaska budget. Increasing the volume of oil flowing through the TransAlaska Pipeline System (TAPS), is critical to providing the future Alaskans deserve. I’ll be working, on your behalf, to make Alaska competitive again; to bring back the jobs and prosperity that come with increased oil production.
Natural gas is the predominate source of energy in SouthCentral and needs to be made affordably available to our region and as much of the rest of Alaska as possible. The current, and hopefully short-term, weak market is a huge obstacle to production of our tremendous gas reserves in both the North Slope and Cook Inlet. Experts forecast a critical shortage of supply by 2015, likely requiring the import of LNG or CNG to keep the lights on. I am keenly focused on seeking short and long-term solutions to providing affordable energy to Alaskans.
2. Should the Legislature revisit Coastal Zone Management?
Devon: Yes. We are the only coastal State that doesn’t have Coastal Zone Management, and we have more coastline than the rest of the Lower 48 combined. The Coastal Zone Management that Alaska used to have in place streamlined the permitting process with clear and direct communication between groups. As it stands now, the federal government has the final say, and that’s not right. We need to restore control to Alaska and its communities in order to encourage responsible development, create jobs, and make prudent decisions about our resources. Alaskans know best what we want and what we need, not the federal government. We must work to create Coastal Zone management with language we agree on, and the sooner the better.
Giessel: Deliberate and thoughtful discussions about state programs are always appropriate but I believe the State of Alaska, in partnership with the local communities, is competent to manage our coastal regions, without undue interference from the federal government. We have management tools and channels of communication in place to communicate among the jurisdictions (local, state and federal) without having to resurrect the expired program.
3. Between potential budget cuts and changes in policy, Alaska is likely to see changes in federal funding in the near future. What can the Legislature do to address the potential impacts?
Devon: ■ Keep the $2 billion dollars a year that some want to give away to oil companies with no promises of new exploration, increased production or more Alaskan jobs. Those dollars come from our budget and away from vital services, infrastructure projects, and schools. Let’s use common sense and make smart business decisions about where our money goes before we give it away.
■ Be smart about accepting federal dollars that make sense. We must not shoot ourselves in the foot because of ideology. Less government is often better, but we should not turn away dollars that are already allocated to Alaska for things we need that make fiscal sense. Alaska is a young state, and we have the same rights as other states to develop and benefit using dollars that are already ours, and will simply go to other states that don’t need it if we turn it away.
Giessel: The Federal government is carrying a $16 trillion national debt. Looming harsh, across-the-board federal spending cuts mean Alaska must prepare to support itself. We’ve already seen huge cuts to vital programs, such as vaccine funding.
The current Federal government has also blocked development of Alaska resources across the State, from timber in Southeast to oil and gas in the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska (NPR-A) and Alaska National Wildlife Reserve 1002 area (ANWR). They are even trying to stop development of resources on State land!
The State Legislature must rein in our spending in to a sustainable level. Studies from the University of Alaska Institute of Social and Economic Research show that annual budgets could be sustained at about $6.4 billion … about half of the FY2013 budget. Oil production is decreasing, and the price of oil is falling. We must rein in our spending!
4. Can members of the Legislature work together to pass meaningful legislation during the upcoming session?
Devon: Yes. The legislature needs a wake-up call from We the People. Alaskans deserve better than stall tactics and stonewalling for political points, while critical legislation for Alaskans “dies in committee.” Those who reach across party lines, and who are willing to come to the table for the benefit of the people should be applauded. South Anchorage has long had minority representation in the senate, which means small staffs, no committee chairmanships, and diminished ability to fully fund projects. The Peninsula, on the other hand, is used to representation from leaders who are fully staffed, hold powerful leadership positions, and fully advocate for what the district needs - not someone who knocks on other legislators’ doors and asks for help. As an Independent who puts Alaskans first over party, or special interests, I will work with both sides, across party lines to serve this district FULLY.
Giessel: Yes, of course we can work together! That’s what Alaskans expect and what I was able to effectively do during my first two years in the Alaska Senate…without compromising the values and principles of my District.
I was appointed to and worked hard on Senate State Affairs committee and Labor & Commerce committee. In fact, the Senate President recently appointed me to the Arctic Policy Commission as well. During the last two years, my District has benefited from important targeted infrastructure appropriations. I initiated and fostered the passage of four pieces of legislation. This was accomplished by working together effectively with members of the Senate … and the House, of both parties.
I have been an effective leader in promoting responsible resource development, Alaska jobs and career education, and energy delivery to Alaskans. I will continue working effectively for my District, collaborating with other legislators, without compromising my District’s values and principles.