Incumbent Sen. Jerry Ward, candidate for the seat from Senate District Q, says the state doesn't have a revenue problem. It has a spending problem.
It is a philosophy to which he has adhered the entire time he has been in office and that continues to feed his desire to cut the cost of government.
"People need to tell the government that it's time to live within a ceiling," he said in January as the last legislative session was opening. As the session unfolded, he opposed proposals to raise revenue through taxes and tap the Alaska Permanent Fund earnings.
He also called for a constitutional spending limit as part of a long-range spending plan. But no such plan exists yet, a circumstance many voters view as a failure of the Legislature, especially the Senate.
"Over the last several years, the Legislature has attempted to reduce the rate of growth," Ward said. "It didn't grow as much as the governor and some legislators wanted it to, nor did it shrink as much as I and others wanted it to."
Ward said his long-range plan is simple.
"You cap government spending. Once we do that and every dollar competes against other dollars, we'll find out which services rise to the top," he said.
He said that might mean making some tough choices, because state spending often can bring sizeable federal grants. But each grant program requiring state matching money should be weighed against whether that money might be better spent on other urgent things.
Ward said new revenues could be generated by more resource development. To that end, he said he would continue to push to put some of Alaska's 100 million publicly owned acres into private hands where it can be developed and added to the tax base.
He also said he would reintroduce a measure to create an education endowment, give it 5 million of those acres, and charge a commission to use them to generate revenue strictly for education funding.
"Revenue could come from harvesting the trees, mining the minerals or by direct sale or long-term leasing of the land," he said. He did not say how much such a land endowment might produce.
Education, transportation and public safety will be his top priorities, he said. Those are things the state must "do well." Everything else should have a lower priority by comparison. He said the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District was "clearly not being treated in a fair manner" by the foundation funding formula.
Ward said he would vote to move the Legislature to the Railbelt.
"Accessibility means accountability," he said.
Ward said the November ballot would ask voters if they want to hold a constitutional convention. He doubts it will pass, but he may just vote for it, he said.
"I think I would like to get a better handle on the judiciary," he said. "We need more citizen control over the courts."
Ward is a lifelong resident of Alaska. He and his wife, Margaret, own Jerry and Margaret Ward Realty, based in Anchorage. They have three children and six grandchildren.
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