Chenault: Education funding would be his major focus

Primary election: District 34 House Republican

Posted: Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Completing his freshman term in the Alaska House of Representatives, District 9's Charles M. "Mike" Chenault acknowledges the Legislature didn't accomplish everything he'd hoped it would when he first left for Juneau in 2000.

Now, Chenault is seeking re-election to the House from the newly created House District 34. The Nikiski resident faces no challengers in the Aug. 27 Republican primary. The only other candidate to have filed for the office is James Price, also of Nikiski, who is running as a Republican Moderate.

"I would rate it (the last legislative session) a C or a C+," Chenault said. "We did accomplish some things. We didn't dig enough into the budget or department issues to really see where money is being spent, but we did try to hold the line with the automatic cost increases to the different formulas. It is pretty tough to hold the line if you don't cut someplace else, though. For the most part, we kept a pretty much flat-line budget compared to the year previous."

If re-elected in November, Chenault said he would make education funding a major focus and work to revamp the foundation formula used to fund schools, a formula he said has shorted the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District by treating the district like an urban district, ignoring the fact it has so many rural schools.

A new formula, he said, would correct any inequities.

Chenault said he would like to see a gas pipeline built that could deliver gas to the peninsula, and he is willing to "work with industry" and provide incentives if that is what it takes, including tax breaks for oil companies, such as delaying taxes on right-of-way property for a couple of years.

"I don't want to give away the farm, but if it takes incentives, let's take an honest look," he said. "If I'm building a building, should I pay taxes the day I start, or when it's complete?' he said.

A gas line spur, he said, would mean economic growth on the peninsula.

Chenault still favors cutting spending before considering taxes or tapping Alaska Permanent Fund earnings or capping the dividend. But each year, lawmakers are presented with a long list of projects that require

appropriations. He said he relies heavily on the wish lists sent by municipalities to decide which projects deserve his full attention and which get a lesser priority.

"They weighted them," he said. "Is it roads? Is it senior citizens' projects? A women's resource center? I try to work with the municipalities and try to see which are the most important."

He said he would likely reintroduce a bill aimed at curbing cruelty to animals that died at the end of the last session. He said he would also work on legislation to control Oxycontin, a painkiller that has become an abused and over-prescribed drug. He would vote to move the Legislature.

Chenault has lived in Nikiski since 1967. He is married and he and his wife Tanna have four children.

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