Torgerson: Bridge a needed project with state funds

Posted: Friday, September 30, 2005

Residence: 49011 Bark Beetle Lane, Kasilof

Mail address: P.O. Box 1068, Kasilof, AK 99610

Contacts: johntorgerson; 262-5988, office; 262-4802, home; 398-6208, cell

Age: 57

Years in the borough: 45

Family: Wife, Marjorie, six children, and 14 grandchildren

Occupation: Business management

Education: GED and finance and accounting school in the U.S. Army

Previous elected office: State senator (1995-2003), borough assembly (1991-95)

Organizations: Soldotna Elks, Kenai Peninsula Winter Games Inc., Veterans of Foreign Wars

1. Do you support Propositions 4 and 5? Why?

Proposition 4: I will be voting against Proposition 4. I could support a limit on spending just borough funds at the $1million level, but adding federal and state funds would be too limiting. Many of our funding requests are to the federal and state governments, to help supplement local funding. An example would be our borough road and bridge program.

Proposition 5: I will be voting against Proposition 5. I would consider passage of this initiative a voter mandate to reduce spending. I’m concerned about what impacts this initiative will have on our property tax rates and on education. The reduction in revenue sharing by the State has contributed greatly to our current budgetary issues as well as all the municipalities within the borough. As the only candidate who served in the Legislature, I am in a strong position to debate this before my former colleagues. I will propose a government size limitation.

2. Do you support Propositions 1, 2 and 3? Why?

Proposition 1: I will vote against proposition 1: This differential tax is unlawful. Alaska statutes clearly state that if a municipality has a general law tax, such as our sales tax, then all commodities and services must be treated the same, unless authority to tax differently is authorized by law. Only alcohol and tobacco are exempted from such treatment.

Proposition 2: I will vote for Proposition 2. Emergency services are one of the very basic services that the borough should provide. Although I will scrutinize closely the size of the building, and the equipment to be purchased, I do support offering this service.

Proposition 3: I will vote for the bridge and funding. I support the Funny River Bridge. It will provide better access to the area and provide for expansion and growth of this region. Funding is estimated to be at $5 million. I believe that the state should fund the match.

3. Should the borough consider assuming new or expanding existing powers? Why?

No. When this borough was formed voters of this area wanted a second-class borough to limit government and I don’t see any public outcry or mandate to expand. We are obviously struggling with our current budget and it is too risky to take on more powers at this time. With the current ballot initiatives and potentially others to limit government or growth of government, caution is necessary. Exceptions would be the creation of voter approved service areas.

4. What actions would you recommend if faced with declining borough revenues, increased expenses and a fund balance that is near its recommended lower limit?

The first thing is cut the budget, which will be accomplished by reviewing all departments and expenditures. I will eliminate any duplication of personnel and I would expect we might use some portion of the fund balance to create a transition period. I will actively pursue new or expanded economic development to raise our commercial or industrial property tax base.

I will also aggressively pursing a state formula-based revenue sharing program for municipalities. With the price of oil at some $70 a barrel, this reduction was just wrong — it transfers the costs to the local taxpayer. This reduction in revenue sharing by the state has contributed greatly to our current budgetary issues as well as all the municipalities within the borough.

5. What makes you the best candidate for the job?

My experience as a small-business owner, my local government experience and my experience in the Legislature. Many of our problems and issues are not in our control, but in the control of the state and federal governments. Issues like funding for schools, a proper area cost differential, funding for borough roads, the retirement system that is grossly under funded, and a natural gas pipeline to Southcentral Alaska, As co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee when oil was under $9 a barrel, I know how to balance revenues with services. As chairman of the Resources Committee, and the International Pipeline Committee, and chair of the Joint Committee of Natural Gas Pipelines, I know the issues. My experience makes me the candidate who can hit the deck running and represent the entire peninsula. I will have a seat at the table to lobby for our borough and our issues.

6. Describe the Kenai Peninsula Borough as you would like to see it 25 years from now. If elected mayor, what will you do to make that vision a reality?

I can visualize a population of 150,000 residents, and more if people discover what the Kenai Peninsula has to offer. In my vision, we will strengthen our industrial, manufacturing and medical profession and added more jobs. Our economy is vibrant, and very diversified, and sustainable. User conflicts have been settled. Our schools are adequately funded, and our children are returning home after graduation from college to work and live on the Peninsula.

I can help make this happen by using my experience to promote a gas line from the North Slope, to foster the industrial and manufacturing sections of our economy. I was one of the sponsors of Senate Bill 36, which rewrote the state’s education formula. Although not a perfect document, it has worked to bring more money to our schools. But more work is needed. I will be at the table, working for you on these issues.

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