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Education funding a top priority with candidates

Posted: Tuesday, October 26, 2004

DEBORAH GERMANO (Democrat)

P.O. Box 1511

Homer, AK 99603

Phone: (907) 235-2538

Marital status: Separated

Children: 2

Employment-business: Works for Signal Communications Inc.

46

Education: High school and IBEW apprenticeship.

MIKE HEIMBUCH (Independent)

4540 Anderson St.

Homer, AK 99603

Phone: (907) 235-6329

Marital status: Married

Children: 3

Employment-business: Maritime services provider

Age: 53

Education: Attended University of Alaska Fairbanks

PAUL K. SEATON (Republican Incumbent)

P.O. Box 1564

Homer, AK 99603

Phone: (907) 235-6342

E-mail: pseaton@alaska.net

Web site: www.VotePaulSeaton.org

Marital status: Married

Children: 2

Employment-business: Commercial fishing

Age: 58

Education: Bachelor's degree from UAF, master's in arts in teaching UAF, master's of science in marine zoology from San Diego State University

ED MARTIN JR. (Alaska Independence Party)

Did not return request for information.

1. What do you think are the most important issues facing your constituents and what do you intend to do about them?

DEB GERMANO: Education, senior care and the environment.

We need to look at the allocation through the foundation formula (which funds school districts). It is not right that the Matanuska-Susitna Borough gets more than the Kenai Peninsula. Education funding also should be inflation-proofed.

We need to restore the Longevity Bonus Program and address the issue of prescription drugs. There have been cuts to assisted living. Income levels have been reduced. We need to fix that as well.

In the environment, everything is under attack under this administration. There have been cuts to the Department of Environmental Conservation, and they have their marching orders to cut regulations. That's a real issue, and we must change direction.

MIKE HEIMBUCH: Concern about what kind of education system is workable and affordable and can meet the needs of enough people to be agreeably funded by the public. I would have a more open conversation about the ability of our education system and centralized education policy to meet the needs of people who think and live differently in various scattered areas.

Second, the long-term prospects for stable jobs in a less-than-big-urban environment. The state has to continue to put emphasis on municipal funding, revenue sharing if you will, so small cities are stable enough to attract stable people and maintain a stable job environment.

Third, the problem of how to fund the kind of city and municipal services that we came to take for granted during times of great oil wealth. There needs to be a frank dialogue about whether municipalities should provide the same level of services without that (state) support and whether citizens should begin taking care of some of their needs through community organizations instead of city or municipal agencies.

PAUL SEATON: Providing a quality education. It is the Legislature's job to find adequate funding. Last year we provided the largest increase in history.

Affordable insurance. We did allow small businesses and nonprofits to pool together to get greater leverage.

Road maintenance and upgrades and trails for safety. We need to make sure we get our stuff (District R projects) on the STIP list (Statewide Transportation Improvement Program).

2. The fiscal gap facing the state has yet to meet a solution the Legislature couldn't kill. What new suggestions do you offer to the debate that might move lawmakers toward that solution?

GERMANO: We need to look at the permanent fund again, but without changing the structure of it. The Legislature currently spends half of the earnings in dividends. It has the power to use the other half. If we could agree to fund education, the Longevity Bonus Program and municipal sharing, there would be an opportunity. The Legislature has to stand up and be willing to do that. It's a no-brainer.

HEIMBUCH: I don't believe we will have a fiscal gap this year or necessarily that we will have one long-term. I believe the price of oil, the development of a gas pipeline and increased oil production on North Slope in response to high oil prices are very likely to erase the threat of a deficit over the next 10 years, until gas pipeline comes on line. The recent regulatory news (out of Congress) on the pipeline may be the biggest piece of fiscal news for this state since Prudhoe Bay lease sales.

If we have a shortfall, I have long been in favor of a compromise between an income tax that hits out-of-state residents hardest, and some contribution from each PFD recipient to help offset the cost of essential state services in their areas.

SEATON: In the House, we did pass an amendment for the POMV (Percent Of Market Value approach to managing and using Alaska Permanent Fund earnings) that would have allowed voters to decide on a structural fix and a plan for the fiscal gap. It would have covered education and revenue sharing and protected permanent fund dividends. I voted for that. We weren't able to get it through the Senate.

3. What are the prospects for your district with regard to the Pebble mine project and what are you prepared to propose to bring some of that business to the Kenai Peninsula?

GERMANO: This is one topic I do not yet have a lot of information on. I don't have an answer.

HEIMBUCH: Our ability to project the usefulness of any of the peninsula cities to the Pebble mine project is really theoretical. Any of them could serve as a transportation hub. Beyond that, it's hard to see what compelling reason they would have to stay on the Kenai Peninsula with more of their operations.

SEATON: I think there is great potential. I support Homer Electric Association supplying power for the project. They should be using electricity we are generating at Bradley Lake. There should be a gas generator in Anchor Point. Beyond that, there is no community consensus in Homer whether that large-scale development will have much impact on Homer. The community must decide.

4. Next year it is likely that despite the price of oil there will be calls for cuts in state expenditures. Where would you cut the budget? Explain your understanding of the effects of those cuts on the people dependent on programs losing funding?

GERMANO: I'm opposed to cutting the bureaucracy any more. We have cut every program serving the citizens for the last seven years, at least. That's been the mantra. The municipalities are taking the brunt of it, and it will cost property taxpayers. We have to look at different solutions. I wouldn't be opposed to cutting administration.

HEIMBUCH: I would not support cuts in the budget. I would support the Legislature using its authority to use funds from other places and maximize use of those funds first. If I had to cut, I would cut percentage-wise across the board for all agencies and let the agencies determine which programs or services were curtailed

SEATON: I don't' think we will be looking at cuts next year. There is a surplus now. Legislators know programs have been cut to the bone, in some cases, too far. I will look to extend the senior care program and hopefully get some community revenue sharing. We need some recurring revenue source. I hope we can get through the cruise ship passenger tax. That would be $75 per person with $25 going to the ports of call. That leaves about $40 million to the state as a source of community revenue sharing funds. It is critical that if we are going to establish new programs that we identify revenues.

5. Where do you stand with regard to state involvement in a future gas pipeline? Royalties? Percent ownership?

GERMANO: Without a lot of study, I guess I'd say I would like to see the state be a percent owner. If the state made the investment, it certainly would benefit all Alaskans. We have the resources to do that. A piece of the money could come from the permanent fund earnings.

HEIMBUCH: I would like to see the state invest in that infrastructure. If people are willing to use part of the permanent fund to fund it, that would go a long way toward allowing Alaskans to maintain a stronger voice in the use of our resources.

SEATON: I'm supportive of the bullet line concept (a line due south from the North Slope to Cook Inlet). It would stabilize our industrial base, as well as serve residential and commercial uses. It's a $3 billion to $4 billion project. It would increase the stability of our economy. The state should be involved in financing and making money off the pipeline.

6. What would you propose for protecting the environment of Alaska?

GERMANO: Quit cutting the Department of Environmental Conservation's budget and eliminating regulations. Return habitat protection to the Habitat Division of Fish and Game rather than the Department of Natural Resources. The environment is under attack. We need to look back to what the missions of these departments were and should be. That would go a long way toward protecting the environment.

HEIMBUCH: I would propose that blanket authorizations for natural resource policy be pared down so that individual areas have maximum input in the public process.

I would try to provide incentives for car-pooling and incentives for the purchase of high fuel efficiency cars, such as through a licenser cost reduction.

SEATON: Support water quality monitoring and community involvement. Those programs are critical to making sure we don't create problems as we move forward. I would oppose the administration's pollution mixing zones in fish spawning streams. I would limit bottom trawling in state waters to protect crab stocks and coral and sponge beds, which are nursery grounds.

7. What would you propose to expand business opportunities and jobs in Alaska?

GERMANO: Amplify facilities in Seward like the (Alaska Vocational Technical) Center, and those in Homer and Kasitsna Bay and the Kenai Peninsula College. Create a four-year program here. Focus on research and data collection. That would be environmentally friendly. It addresses issues all the way around.

HEIMBUCH: I would try to fund the Alaska Tourism Marketing Council a bit more. I would propose that instead of spending money at the state level through the Department of Community and Economic Development, that we extend those funds to communities better sited and suited to assess economic development potential in their areas.

SEATON: We need to figure out a reasonable solution to the insurance dilemma, worker compensation problems.

A laminated veneer lumber manufacturing plant in Seward would provide long-term sustainable use of timber from the peninsula, the Matanuska Valley and Tanana Valley.

Promote eco-tourism marketing.



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