Candidates take issue with jobs, loss of services

Posted: Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The rising cost of government, underfunded and sometimes disappearing public services, the need for jobs in a struggling economy and concerns for the environment are among the issues that will send voters from House District 35 to the polls Nov. 2.

In this race, the electorate has a wealth of choices. Four candidates are seeking the seat and their opinions run the spectrum from conservative to progressive thought. On some issues, their views reflect similarities. On others, there are clear differences over current political and economic conditions and what to do about them.

One-term Rep. Paul Seaton, of Homer, is facing three challengers Democrat Deb Germano of Homer, independent candidate Mike Heimbuch of Homer and Alaska Independence Party candidate Ed Martin Jr. of Cooper Landing.

Martin has not returned phone calls for an interview and will not appear in the question-and-answer profiles on page A-8.

Martin also did not provide the Alaska Division of Elections a candidate statement and does not appear with other candidates in the State of Alaska Official Election Pamphlet.

Seaton, a commercial fisher and first-term member of the House, said education, making insurance affordable and road maintenance are among the top issues facing District 35 voters.

He also said he sees potential for business on the Kenai Peninsula as the Pebble mine project on the Alaska Peninsula takes off. He predicted no cuts in the budget next year, but rather a focus on new revenues.

Seaton has said schools should be adequately funded, but cautions that society has saddled schools with numerous new tasks, requiring "innovative solutions" to make the institutions more relevant and effective.

He has suggested investigating a cruise ship passenger tax, an income tax and adjusting taxes on oil. He supports a public vote on the percent-of-market-value (POMV) approach to the permanent fund.

Germano, a resident of Alaska for 26 years, is a member of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Board of Education. She also noted the need to support education and said spending on schools should be protected from inflation.

She called for the restoration of the Longevity Bonus Program for seniors. She said the environment is under attack and the state needs to take a new direction. She opposes any further cuts in the budget, arguing among other things, that it is the municipalities that have taken the brunt of the effects of past cuts.

The Republican majority in the House is inefficient and continues to pass legislation requiring more bureaucracy and regulation, Germano said. She opposes what she has called, "the antiquated" system of closed caucuses.

Independent candidate Heim-buch said the education issue needs an open conversation regarding how education policy can address the variety of needs and lifestyles Alaskans lead.

He said he would put more emphasis on funding for municipalities so they could create stable environments for business and jobs.

He said he doesn't believe there is a fiscal gap, primarily because current high oil prices, coupled with construction of a gas pipeline and increased oil production on the North Slope, will wipe it out. He said he would not support further budget cuts but also believes Alaskans should start expecting less from their government.

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