Question 1: As succinctly and plainly as possible, tell us your opinion of Gov. Frank Murkowski’s proposed contract with the major producers and his gas pipeline plans.
Answer: Alaska’s natural resources belong to the people. They are ours until we sign a contract assigning them to someone else. When we do this, we should get the best value possible.
Governor Murkowski’s proposed contract dealt only with changing the severance (PPT) not the royalties, property tax or corporate income taxes. He linked the overdue severance (PPT) increase to a future gas pipeline. This was efficient but not in the best interest of the Legislators who should be protecting our interests.
Unfortunately, the State Legislature had no proposal as an option and therefore the discussion was limited only to the Governor’s plan. The Governor used three Special Sessions to force the Legislature to comply or not make it home for re-election campaigning. The Legislature “grossly” caved in.
The gas pipeline and the jobs its represents are our children’s future and must include a spur to Kenai. Kenai cannot be given away.
Question 2: As of June 30, the Alaska Permanent Fund had reached nearly $33 billion, $2.9 million more than the year before. Despite recent state government appropriations, school districts continue to struggle. At what point do you feel some of the fund should be applied directly to education?
Answer: Never! Never! Never let the Legislature get their hands on the Permanent Fund without voter approval. Any voter approval should include input from every shareholder including our children. The Permanent Fund is a voter approved public trust. The experience with the Legislature allowing the demise of the Longevity Bonus should be a warning regarding who to trust.
Dividends from the Permanent Fund are the greatest source of revenue for local communities and for many businesses PFD spending determines whether a profit or a loss will be made for the year.
The new revenue from the petroleum contract and the revenue from a gas pipeline will provide the Legislature with more than enough funds to truly, fully-fund education. A two-year funding policy for education is what is needed, not a raid of the Permanent Fund. The elimination of unfunded education mandates by Juneau would also provide needed funds.
Question 3: The nation’s dependence on oil and the impact of rising fuel prices are ever more evident these days. Can and should Alaska provide financial incentives to business for developing alternative energies? Which ones and what might incentives look like?
Answer: After 18 years as a Director on the Homer Electric Board, I am greatly aware that alternatives energy sources and methods are required. Alaska has the greatest amount of coal in America and coal gasification in Nikiski is Alaska’s greatest hope for reducing energy costs for all Railbelt users. Business incentives like those HEA supported for Agrium make sense.
Alaska does not have the economic advantage which economies of scale provide Outside energy generators. We can and should support a Unified System Operation for the power generated by the Railbelt energy providers as well as further production of wind power, like Kotzebue, and more hydroelectric power. Future technology may allow the economic development of tidal power in Cook Inlet and Turnagain Arm.
The greatest business incentive is the free market economy. However, endless litigation regarding the permitting process, understaffed regulatory authorities and political appointments to state positions requiring knowledge are creating waste.
Question 4: Recent predictions suggest salmon returns may be relatively poor for the next several years, which could leave many fishermen unable to make ends meet. Should the state step in and provide financial help? If so, what kind? If not, why not?
Answer: The constitutional help the state could and should provide to those who make their livelihood from fishing is to allow science, not campaign contributions, to determine fish policy.
The assessment of the impact of long-term weather changes on species development is long overdue and should be based on research not ideology.
The most appropriate financial assistance that the state should provide is to legally “encourage” Exxon to pay what is owed from the Exxon Valdez settlement.
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