Paul Seaton: School funding needs to be more equitable

Posted: Monday, October 30, 2006

Age: 61

Occupation: Commercial fisherman, small business owner — K-N-S Marine

Family: Wife, Tina; daughter, Tawny; son, Rand

Education: Bachelor of science degree in biology from University of Alaska Fairbanks, master of arts in teaching biological sciences from UAF, master of science in marine zoology from San Diego State, diesel mechanics from Alaska Skill Center (AVTEC)

Organizations and special interests: Alaska Marine Conservation Council, National Rifle Association, North Pacific Fishermen’s Association

Previously held elected office and experience: Seward Port and Harbor Commission, state representative, 2003 to present

Ways for voters to contact you: , 235-6342

1. What, in your view, should a North Slope gas pipeline plan look like?

A gas pipeline project should be the one that has the greatest return to the state after a comparative analysis of the proposed projects. No such comparison has yet been made though I have requested such through the legislative consultants and it should be completed in November. There are actually three possibilities: a gas line through Canada, a gas line with a Liquefied Natural Gas facility in Valdez or other seaport, and conversion of natural Gas to Liquids (GTL) to oil and shipment through the existing Trans Alaska Pipeline System. The study finalized in August 2006 for the Department of Energy states; “Previous studies proved that the best of these three options is the third option (that is the GTL option).” This GTL option also extends the life of TAPS and by dilution would allow pumping of large quantities of North Slope heavy oil.

2. How do you propose to make the state’s educational funding system more equitable?

We need to incorporate the Geographic Cost Differential from studies commissioned by the legislature into the school Foundation Formula. Currently the Kenai Peninsula is not fairly compensated for the higher costs associated with education in schools that are not connected by road, or the difference in cost of living and cost of purchasing materials on the Kenai compared to Anchorage. I am not optimistic as to a rewrite of the entire Formula being completed this year with the mix of other vital topics before the legislature and the philosophical opposition from some key members of the Senate. Therefore, I encourage the pursuit of the equity funding lawsuit by parents in the Borough.

3. How do you propose to address the debt to public employee and teacher retirement programs?

I worked hard on the version of HB238 which passed the House State Affairs committee. That bill would have established a Past Service Offset account that would have paid 55% of the cumulative average municipal unfunded liability over the next 25 years. I believe we need an automatic system rather than relying on one-time surplus money in each year’s budget and 25 years of separate legislative actions to appropriate funds for this purpose. It is important to incorporate credit for those employers that work to reduce their unfunded liability. We should not unfairly compensate employers for poor financial choices such as selling assets and retaining PERS liability, or allowing very low compensated elected officials to “earn” retirement benefit without significant contribution into the plans. We must continue to pick up the full tab for school districts as they have no taxing authority.

4. Where will your attention be focused with regard to targeting local projects for state assistance?

Healthcare and maintaining a safe community are priorities. The last two years have had such large capital budgets that Alaskan contractors are pretty full of projects. We should let many of these get through the process or we will just be importing outside contractors and increasing the cost because there will not be much competition for the projects. I would support a smaller capital budget and put surplus money to retiring state debt such as the retirement system, forward funding education, and establishing a sustainable system of municipal revenue sharing or community dividends.

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