Homer seat draws first contender

Borough assembly member Scalzi files to replace Phillips in District 7

Posted: Thursday, February 24, 2000

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member who represents the rural areas surrounding Homer has his sights on a higher chair.

Diamond Ridge resident Drew Scalzi, 48, filed last week to run for the House District 7 seat in the Alaska Legislature now held by Rep. Gail Phillips, R-Homer. Scalzi, who filed as a Republican, said he does not expect Phillips to run for re-election.

"But it will be up to her to make that announcement," he said.

An Aug. 22 primary will determine who represents each party in the Nov. 7 general election. The filing deadline for legislative candidates is June. 1, and by Wednesday afternoon, Scalzi was the only candidate who had filed for House District 7.

He has lived in the Homer area since 1977. On the assembly since 1992, he represents the area from Anchor Point to East End Road and south Kachemak Bay, excluding the city of Homer.

"I think my experience on the assembly and dealing with our legislators over the years has made me familiar with the government process," he said. "I think I have something to contribute."

He said he does not introduce ordinances at the assembly just to pass new laws. Instead, he prefers to tackle issues as they arise.

"It's a team effort, and it should be a team effort in the Legislature, too," he said.

Scalzi said the most pressing issue in the Legislature is how to balance the state budget. With the Sept. 14 ballot initiative, he said, voters sent a clear message that they do not want to use earnings of the Alaska Permanent Fund as a cure-all. Balancing the budget likely will require a combination of measures, he said.

"My initial instinct is to look at an overall plan that may include reinstating the school tax or the income tax," he said. "There could be a state sales tax."

He said he has not decided whether permanent fund earnings should be part of the fix.

"I think I'd look at everything," he said.

With oil pushing $30 per barrel, there is time to consider, he said, but high oil prices will not last forever.

"The time to do something about (the state budget) is before the price comes down," he said.

Additional cuts to revenue sharing and municipal assistance seem inevitable, he said. The Legislature has been weaning municipalities off state aid for years. While state aid decreases, the public sees cuts in services or local tax hikes, but it fails to see the connection to the Legislature.

"Some in Juneau seem to feel like they have to make local government bleed more so the public will accept some type of (state) taxes," he said. "I don't think that's the way to go. Why set the municipalities back so far before you institute some kind of a revenue source?"

Scalzi makes his living fishing for halibut and cod and running a tender that carries salmon from commercial fishers to processors. For the last five years, he has sat on a committee advising the North Pacific Fishery Management Council on the implementation of a program to privatize federally managed halibut and black cod fisheries.

For almost three years, he has sat on the International Pacific Halibut Commission, which sets quotas and fishing rules concerning Pacific halibut off the United States and Canada. Scalzi said powerful commercial interests have dominated the North Pacific council, while the state Board of Fisheries lately has leaned in favor of sport fishers. Both sport and commercial fishing play big roles in the Kenai Peninsula Borough, he said.

"As a legislator, I could add a good working knowledge of state issues dealing with sport and commercial fishing," he said.

Scalzi has waged a long battle with cancer and has attended several borough assembly meetings by teleconference. After a checkup this month, he said, his doctor pronounced him cancer-free. He said he is feeling stronger daily and expects no health problems that would interfere with work as a legislator.

"I wouldn't have filed if I hadn't gotten a clean bill of health," he said.

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