FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Only four of the 16 gubernatorial candidates tackled policy issues at a candidates forum in Fairbanks, Thursday night.
But the small size of the group allowed the candidates to answer questions on a wide range of issues, with the state's fiscal woes emerging as a common theme.
Participating in the League of Women Voters forum were Alaskan Independence Party candidates Nels Anderson Jr. and John Wayne Glotfelty and Democrats Michael Beasley and Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer.
All of the candidates were asked what they would do to solve the state's fiscal gap. Beasley said he favored leaving the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend untouched.
''I also say we do not need a sales tax,'' Beasley said, ''And we certainly do not need an income tax.''
Ulmer, also a Democrat, acknowledged the financial difficulties the state is facing and praised the House for its attempt last session to bridge the fiscal gap, she didn't offer a specific solution to the problem. She noted the importance of controlling state spending and increasing revenue, saying that she planned to offer more specifics in an upcoming policy speech.
Anderson said he favored a proposal to consolidate the Alaska Permanent Fund, the earnings reserve account and the Constitutional Budget Reserve into a single account that could be invested and the earnings used to fund state government. He also proposed cutting unnecessary government functions and taxing North Slope natural gas.
''As governor I am either going to get that gas out of there or tax it in the ground,'' Anderson said.
Glotfelty, also an AIP candidate, was skeptical that the fiscal gap is even real. For years people said the money would be gone by this year, he said, and it is still here now. ''
I will not increase your taxes on a projected shortfall that has already been proven to be false,'' he said. He also advocated cutting unnecessary, high-paid government officials.
The candidates also found some common ground on several subjects. All but Beasley spoke in favor of continued funding for Smart Start, an initiative started during the current administration that advocates funding for children's social, medical and education programs.
Anderson, Ulmer and Glotfelty all advocated streamlining permitting in order to stimulate economic development in the state.
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