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District 33 candidates talk money

Posted: Sunday, July 21, 2002

Fiscal responsibility, government accountability and a diversified economy are the keys to success in Alaska, two Republicans told the Kenai Chamber of Commerce Wednesday.

Soldotna residents Mel Krogseng and Kelly Wolf spoke at the chamber's "meet the candidates" session. Both are Republicans seeking votes in the Aug. 27 primary election for the District 33 seat in the Alaska House of Representatives. The new district includes Kenai, Soldotna, Kalifornsky Beach Road and portions of the Sterling Highway.

Republican David L. Richards also is seeking election to the seat.

Former legislator Hal Smalley is the only Democrat also seeking election to District 33.

Krogseng, a Florida native, has spent the past 30 years in Alaska. A retired flight nurse with the U.S. Air Force, she now runs a lodge on the Kenai River with her husband. In addition, she has experience in real estate, community boards and has worked for both the legislative and executive branches of state government.

Wolf has lived on the central Kenai Peninsula since high school. A 1979 graduate of Kenai Central High School, he owned his own construction business before founding the Youth Restoration Corps in 1995. This is his first bid for public office.

Smalley sent a written statement to the luncheon but was unable to attend because his wife was undergoing surgery. Smalley is a retired teacher and coach, spent nearly a decade in commercial fishing and served 10 years on the Kenai City Council and two years in the House.

Smalley's statement cited the benefits of redistricting, which has reunited Kenai and Soldotna.

"While our two cities are unique, we have many common interests and challenges, such as the health of the Kenai River, interests in transportation, public safety, quality schools and programs and creating safe healthy communities in which to live and raise our families," he wrote.

"As dollars get more scarce, working together can have great benefits for both cities and the surrounding areas that make up District 33."

Among Smalley's primary goals are funds for education from kindergarten through college, a long-range fiscal plan for the state that controls spending and implements new revenue programs, increasing job opportunities and promoting continued development of natural resources while protecting the environment.

Krogseng and Wolf addressed such issues in more depth throughout the meeting, taking turns answering questions about their political priorities and key issues in the state -- especially economics.

Both candidates said the state's problem is not a lack of money, but a lack of fiscal accountability.

"Many state agencies continue screaming that they don't have funding," Wolf said. "I'm amazed by some of the things they do with their funds. It all goes back to the fact that we need to hold them accountable."

"I haven't looked at where all the funding went, but budgets were not cut this year," Krogseng agreed. "They just didn't get as much money as they asked for. I'm here to tell you, there's a lot of money wasted out there that needs to be saved."

Education, for example, needs funding and responsibility, Krogseng said.

"(Education) funding has to be adequate," she said, "but we can't always throw money at the problem. We wouldn't have so many charter schools and home-schoolers if everything was working properly in our schools."

Likewise, funding shortages are not the real problem in transportation and public safety, she said.

"Maybe we need to form a special committee" to look into how government departments are using their budgets, she said.

Wolf took a slightly different approach, focusing not only on agency accountability, but also on citizen responsibility.

"Parents can't use the school system as a day-care. Parents need to be involved in their children's education. And we have to fund our teachers," he said.

"Public roads, we all need them, we all use them, and we all complain in the winter if they're not plowed out. So we have to decide, are we going to push the snow ourselves or fund the department?" he asked. "Eighty-seven percent of Alaskans say don't touch the permanent fund. We have to figure out where to get more revenue."

"What we need to take a look at is developing a long-range financial plan," Krogseng said. "Part of the problem is that budgeting is based on future income. You don't know what's going to happen, so you can't count on your budget. We need to diversify."

She also said unnecessary regulations should be examined and thrown out in order to unburden businesses.

"We need to make it a little easier for businesses to do business," she said.

Wolf agreed.

"We have an awful lot of opportunity," he said. "The government needs to work with small business."

Neither offered suggestions for specific revenue sources.

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