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Anderson: State must decide needs vs luxuries

Posted: Friday, October 31, 2008

Age: 62

Occupation: Medical doctor

Family: Wife, Carla; children, Hubert, Jeremy, Matthew, Nate, Deryk, Rebecca and Carissa

Education: BSc and MSc Biochemistry (Saskatchewan), Medical Doctorate (Utah), Family Practice Residency and Obstetrical fellowship (Andrews Air Force Base Washington, D.C.)

Organizations and special interests: Boy Scouts of America, NRA and Snow Shoe gun club member, Central Peninsula Hospital chief of staff 2006 to 2008, American Cancer Society, Alaska Chapter past president, former Iditarod musher and Tustumena 200 race marshal, hybridizing flowers, infertility treatment

Previously held elected office and experience: Kenai Peninsula School Board, 15 years

Ways for voters to contact you: E-mail, nels4senate@gmail.com; phone, 262-3280 (home) or 262-4161 (office)

1. How should Alaska position itself to ride out, or perhaps benefit from, the stark financial realities of the current economic crises, and what steps do you think the Legislature should take to help protect constituents?

We all bear responsibility for part of this problem. As a country, we have been living on the credit of others and other nations. We have extended our own personal credit to provide for things we liked, but perhaps we did not need.

The state has responsibilities to pay for schools, pensions, and health care by contractual obligation. Beyond that, we need to decide what things are luxuries and what things are necessities.

We also need to prioritize investments that create jobs or improve the quality of life. Those items may deserve investment in spite of hard times. With that said, the most important thing we can do is save the surplus.

2. Alaska is a resource state, but relatively little in the way of processing infrastructure has been built here that would allow Alaska to add value to those raw materials. What can and should the state do to change that?

Our main resource we have to process is petrochemicals. If we can complete a gas line with guaranteed prices, we should be able to reopen Agrium and possibly entice new industry like Dow Chemical.

Dow Chemical was here on the Kenai two years ago considering a facility that would employ thousands. We should do all we can to make that facility happen.

With other resources, we need to look at the Pacific Rim and North American markets and see if we can economically send finished products to them. We need some creative thinking here. For example, can we produce copper wire or pipes rather than just shipping away raw materials?

Lastly, our most precious resource is our children. We live in a world that is connected and integrated. We can think big and work to expand our economic base into technological and scientific industries that go beyond core natural resources.

3. Surpluses from high oil prices have allowed the Legislature to increase funding to schools. What is your opinion of the current level of education funding and why?

First, I'm skeptical that we have any major surpluses. A lot has changed in the last two months.

Regardless, education must always be a priority. Funding has been too tight for our students and teachers. Twelve of the 15 years I was on the school board we had to fire teachers and cut programs.

While I'm fiscally conservative, we need to provide money to restore some of these programs. We need to fund the TERS and PERS pensions programs and employee salary increases.

We need the full area cost differential, that is, equitable funding now. We have been shorted $10 million per year by the state. We need to get those dollars soon and not in a few years. We need put that money to use for our kids and teachers.

4. What are you prepared to do to advance alternative energy efforts in Alaska, should you be elected?

Each energy project should 1) make sense for the area, 2) meet a need, and 3) be part of an overall energy policy.

Wind energy makes sense for a lot of Western Alaska (though I would like to see Alaskans rather than Georgians servicing the wind mills.)

The geo-thermal project at Mt. Spurr, and the hydroelectric projects at Chakachamna and, perhaps, Susitna are ready to be invested in. They are environmentally friendly and relatively easy to do.

I ask two questions when evaluating these projects:

1) Is the project viable fiscally and environmentally?

2) Will this help Alaskans with our energy needs?

We all agree that Alaska has impressive alternative energy options. We need to move forward in an active, yet responsible way.



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