The Kenai Peninsula Borough needs to do more to lure new businesses and industry to the peninsula, said borough assembly member Paul Fischer, who is seeking re-election in a three-way race for assembly District 7.
Companies that can offer long-term commitment to the area and permanent jobs are what are needed. Short-term development is OK, but only to a point, he said.
"Take the Arctic Winter Games. Those are nice, but once they're over, what do you have?"
Fischer wants to promote the coal deposits at Beluga. Tire manufacturing, which needs the carbon black derived from coal, might be a logical industry to attract, he said.
The borough might look at Alaska Permanent Fund investments and go after firms in which the fund invests heavily, he said.
Rather than sending delegations of assembly members and borough officials on trips Outside to look at various companies, why not invite the CEOs of those firms to Alaska, he said.
Fischer wants the public surveyed to find out what kind of development people want and how much of it.
"I bet we'd get back some good ideas as to what kind of development they would like to see," he said.
Fischer is prepared to discuss tax incentives for some incoming companies but would not support tax cuts for companies that would then compete directly with firms already here.
Fischer said the borough is not as responsive as it could be. If it were, people would be paying less in property taxes. He pointed to the borough's savings.
"We don't need to have the surplus that we have," he said.
Fischer noted his time in the Alaska Senate and recalled that when the state had a lot of money, it spent it, often on programs it now can't support. He worries that the borough could fall into the same trap.
"What do you do then, raise taxes?" he said.
Fischer believes the borough could cut the property tax mill rate at least another mill and give property owners real tax relief.
He also has a problem, he said, with the Road Service Area mill rate increases over the past couple of years. They went from a half mill to 1.5 mills.
Fischer said there are many residents paying the mill rate who see no direct benefit because they live on state-maintained roads. The same goes for the industrial plants in Nikiski, he added.
If the state decides to impose a sales tax, Fischer said he hopes they exempt municipalities that have their own. He said he would prefer to see a sales tax imposed on the unincorporated parts of the state, perhaps as high as 10 percent.
"Somehow, they've got to be hit with something so they know they are paying something into the operation of the state," he said.
The borough is doing a good job funding education and waste management, he said.
Fischer said he is the best person for the job because of his longevity.
"I have a lot more experience to draw on," he said.
Fischer lives in Kasilof. He is retired. He has resided in Alaska for 33 years.
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