District 34 candidates agree on most issues

Posted: Monday, October 25, 2004

The candidates vying for the seat from House District 34 say their supporters want more funding for schools, better roads and improved job prospects.

But the challenger in this race also says many lawmakers including his opponent are in the pockets of special interests like the oil companies, and state resource policy has not treated Alaskans fairly.

Incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Chenault of Nikiski, who is seeking his third term in the House, is facing challenger Glen F. Martin of Sterling, a conservative running as an independent.

Chenault owns an oil-field construction firm called Qwick Construction. Martin also is involved in construction and owns the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna.

Both say they see the world through the practical lenses of a business owner's eyes.

Chenault said the state must find a solution to the uneven funding distributed to schools. He wants the state's Foundation Formula, used to determine what districts get, to be revamped, ar-guing that the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District has been shortchanged.

However, he also notes that fixing the problem won't be easy.

As for the fiscal gap that has sent the state into deficit spending most of the past 15 years, Chenault said there are no easy answers there, either.

While discussing revenue-generating schemes like taxes and new ways to handle the permanent fund are fine, he argues too little has been done to cut costs.

Martin said jobs are most important to his supporters, especially those with high pay. He advocates active promotion of resource development and privatization of some government functions.

He wants an expanded rail system, including lines to the Lower 48, a speedier design and bid process for road projects and vocational-technical training made available to Alaska's young people.

The state, he said, could save money by better use of the Internet and by Web-casting meetings to reduce travel expense.

He said the economic limitation factor, or ELF, should be redone but added that lawmakers, including Chenault, are bending to the will of the oil companies. Alaska should be getting a fairer share of the current high crude prices, he said.

Chenault makes no apologies for his efforts on behalf of oil companies on which his district's tax base depends.

He also has promoted legislative help for firms such as Agrium, which could close its Nikiski fertilizer plant in a little more than a year unless it can secure a steady supply of natural gas.

Toward that end, Chenault said he thinks the state should be part owner of the future gas pipeline, saying the state would do well having a seat at the table during tariff negotiations.

Martin said he might support ownership, but only if government is streamlined first, making it somewhat more like a private business. He said he worries when government owns such entities.

Martin also said he wants the capital moved out of Juneau as soon as possible.

Candidate columns can be found on Candidate question and answer and election profiles pages.

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