2006 State Election Forum

Candidates for State House and Governor Discuss Skagway Issues

The Skagway News asked these questions of the two House candidates for District 5 and the three major candidates for Governor. All returned their answers.

QUESTIONS
1. This winter’s ferry schedule in Upper Lynn Canal is being widely criticized as the worst ever. What will you do to improve the situation when you get to Juneau? Also, will you support continued funding of the road to Katzehin?

2. Skagway is a potential port for the movement of pipe and materials to construct the Yukon section of the proposed Alaska Highway Gas Line. Do you support this project? If so, under what terms? If not, why not?

3. It seems that no matter how much the state boosts education funding, there is a cry heard for more money to keep programs intact, with more of that burden falling on tax payers in municipalities. What’s your plan for funding the education needs of all kids, no matter what size town they live in?

4. Please briefly list your top four priorities for Alaska over the next four years?

House District 5

NAME: Aaron T Isaacs, Jr. (D-Klawock)
AGE: 68
OCCUPATION: Retired
EDUCATION: High school, trade school, community college.
YEARS IN ALASKA: 68
PUBLIC OFFICES HELD: Director, Division of EEO, Human Rights Commission, Labor Relations Board.
INTERESTS, HOBBIES: reading, hunting, sport fishing.

ISAACS ANSWERS
1. I support funding for the Alaska Marine Highway system. Undecided on the road.

2. Undecided. We need to know what other ports are considered.

3. We should attempt to fund ALL educational needs, no matter where they’re from.

4. Top priorities: The three mentioned above – marine highway, gas line, education – and continuing to fund the Power Cost Equalization system.

NAME: Bill Thomas (R-Haines)
AGE: 59
OCCUPATION: Commercial fisherman: gillnet salmon, halibut and shrimp
EDUCATION: Haines High School
YEARS IN ALASKA: 59
PUBLIC OFFICES HELD: School board, Borough Assembly, 2 years in Legislature.
INTERESTS, HOBBIES: fishing, golfing, working on fish gear.

THOMAS ANSWERS
1. I have tried to make the schedule better but obviously I have failed. I will work to continue to improve the schedule not only for Skagway but for the whole district. We’ve had poor scheduling. Also we can carry out a legislative intent to give the Marine Transportation Advisory Board more authority. I think that’s very key, and give a job description for the marine highway director, remove the politics. As for the road, if there are Shakwak funds being used, I will continue to fight it, yes, because that money should go to marine highway repairs and replacement.

2. Yes and the terms would be for the most favorable return back to the people of the state of Alaska.

3. I think you need to improve the economy of the communities so people go back to them. There’s been a loss of students in the districts, and teachers and buildings aren’t being used to the best of their abilities. We need to develop economic development projects to help do that. Also we were able to get cost differential moneys. We got 25 percent last year and I will continue to fight for more of it. It has helped the disticts I have been in. We have to watch the potential re-write of the foundation formula and it’s best to have someone in the majoriyt to get what we need. We also have to start retiring the PERS and TRS debt.

4. Top Priorities:
1. The SE intertie for all the communities that need it.
2. Gas pipeline development.
3. The marine highway. It’s a statewide issue and affects 11 of our communities.
4. Continuing to respond to the needs of the municipalities. That’s where we get our direction. That’s what they like the best about us. We don’t tell them what to do. They have the latitude of approaching us on their agenda.

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Governor

The three major candidates on the ballot are Independent Andrew Halcro, Democrat Tony Knowles, and Republican Sarah Palin. Because they did not visit Skagway during the campaign, their photos are not included here. They did answer the same questions as the House candidates via e-mail.

QUESTIONS
1. This winter’s ferry schedule in Upper Lynn Canal is being widely criticized as the worst ever. What will you do to improve the situation when you get to Juneau? Also, will you support continued funding of the road to Katzehin?

2. Skagway is a potential port for the movement of pipe and materials to construct the Yukon section of the proposed Alaska Highway Gas Line. Do you support this project? If so, under what terms? If not, why not?

3. It seems that no matter how much the state boosts education funding, there is a cry heard for more money to keep programs intact, with more of that burden falling on tax payers in municipalities. What’s your plan for funding the education needs of all kids, no matter what size town they live in?

4. Please briefly list your top four priorities for Alaska over the next four years?

NAME: Andrew Halcro (I-Anchorage)
AGE: 42
OCCUPATION: President/Avis Rent A Car of Alaska.
EDUCATION: East Anchorage High School, Willamette University, University of Alaska, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard Business School
YEARS IN ALASKA: 41
PUBLIC OFFICES HELD: Alaska State House of Representatives 1998-2002
INTERESTS, HOBBIES (list 3 only): Water Skiing, Cooking, Reading

ANDREW HALCRO ANSWERS
1. As the only gubernatorial candidate who makes a payroll in Southeast Alaska (including Skagway), I can assure you that having good community access year round is an absolute priority. The Alaska Marine Highway System has been poorly managed for the last few years and as governor I will take immediate steps to improve service by mandating increased service and consistent schedules. I do not support the Juneau access road.

2. I support the Highway route as I believe it will provide great the best economic value for Alaskans. I believe the contract that Governor Murkowski negotiated is a good foundation In addition, the state must plan to play a role in helping communities like Skagway address infrastructure needs (docks, rail, etc.) to be in a position to help construct the line.

3. For 30 years we have based our investment in education on the price of a barrel of oil. Between fy00 and fy03 we increased student funding less than 2% due to low oil prices. Education is critically important no matter what community you live in and the state needs to get serious about fiscal stability to make sure we are meeting the needs of Alaska students. I propose to continue funding education out of the general fund with the intention of being a strong advocate to make sure the yearly base student allocation represents the true and full cost of providing education to all of Alaska’s school districts.

4. Two areas will drive my attention, economic health and community health. Economic health will be improved by aggressively pursuing the natural gas pipeline which will provide economic benefits for generations to come. Growing tourism beyond cruise ship passengers which will put more money into local communities. Improving the quality, value and marketing of our fresh seafood to protect coastal communities and provide opportunities for the next generation of fisherman. Building a 21st century education system to meet the emerging economic opportunities. Community health will be improved by reinstating community revenue sharing to boost the financial health of local communities. Improving health care by expanding accessibility and affordability of services through increased investments in Denali Kid Care and creating a small business insurance pool while working on community wellness programs. Attacking costly social ills like domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse while embracing comprehensive prevention and education programs. Providing local schools incentives to embrace nutrition and physical education programs.

NAME: Tony Knowles (D-Anchorage)
AGE: 63
OCCUPATION: Partner, Downtown Investments Company
EDUCATION: Yale University, AB, Economics (1968)
YEARS IN ALASKA: 38 years (Anchorage 1968 ñ 2006, Juneau 1994 ñ 2002)
PUBLIC OFFICES HELD: Governor of Alaska; Mayor of Anchorage; Member of Anchorage Assembly.
INTERESTS, HOBBIES (list 3 only):Hiking, skiing (Nordic and Alpine), fishing

TONY KNOWLES ANSWERS
1. I am ready to revitalize the AMHS with professional management, utilization of the newest technology, replacement of 40-year old vessels, and public participation. The best way to get passengers back on the ferries is to get politics out. With qualified professional managers, instead of political appointees, we will steer the ferry system back on course with reliable, affordable service; better use of fast ferries; and schedules responsive to passenger and community needs.I will continue the Juneau access road project already underway. The City and Borough of Juneau has ruled that the project is allowable under the Borough’s master plan. Bids for the first section of road are due this month, and the Corps of Engineers is expected to make its final decision on a permit in January. COE approval will allow the bids to be opened and, if within budget, the road project will proceed.

2. I’m confident Skagway will see significant benefits as a major supply port-of-entry, generating jobs and business. I will negotiate the gasline project that brings the maximum return to Alaska in local hire, local business opportunities, state revenue and cheap, clean energy for homes and businesses — with benchmarks, including a realistic timetable (the sooner the better) for starting and completing this project.

3. The General Fund will continue to be the primary source to fund our constitutional responsibility for education. Surpluses from recent high oil prices should be used to supplement current education funding. Restoring municipal revenue sharing will help reduce taxes and fund local needs like education. We need to invest in early education programs that save money in the long run. It is also my goal to use gasline revenues to create a Trust Fund for Education Excellence dedicated to funding K-12 and post-secondary technical, vocational and university courses.

4. Top priorities:
GASLINE: Negotiate the best gasline deal for Alaska and start the project.
EDUCATION: Establish preschool, improve K-12, raise graduation rates, expand vocational, technical and university choices with an emphasis on filling jobs with Alaska talent from a superior school system.
HEALTH CARE: Make health care accessible and affordable for all Alaskans by expanding Denali KidCare, creating insurance pools, getting VA coverage for Vets, and helping seniors make ends meet by restoring the Longevity Bonus.
FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY: Save for the future; stabilize the public employee retirement system; restore Municipal Revenue Sharing.

NAME: Sarah Palin (R-Wasilla)
AGE: 42
OCCUPATION: Former Mayor/Manager; Former Chairman, Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission
EDUCATION: Wasilla High graduate, 1982; University of Idaho graduate, B.S. Communications - Journalism, 1987
YEARS IN ALASKA: 42
PUBLIC OFFICES HELD: Wasilla City Council; Wasilla City Mayor; President, Alaska Conference of Mayors; Alaska Municipal League Board; Chairman, Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission; Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission
INTERESTS, HOBBIES (list 3 only): fishing, running, Alaska history

SARAH PALIN ANSWERS
1. If we call it a highway system we have to treat it like a highway system. The first step is taking the politics out of the Marine Highway system. We need to review the schedule and make sure we are meeting the needs of those who rely on reliable service. I am Interested and willing to take seriously the report by Southeast Conference called "Sustainable Ferries"-- which can be a guide toward balancing the needs and Interests across the region.
I do support the continued funding for the Juneau access project. Alaskans should be connected to their capital city. I will let that public process work, including giving great deference to the communities that are most effected by it (Juneau, Haines, Skagway). We need to make sure this is the best project for Alaska. The most cost effective, environmentally sound and economically beneficial to the state.

2. Skagway is a viable option for a staging center for the Alaska Highway pipeline route. My administration is one that will lay all viable pipeline options out for fair consideration before signing a contract. My plan is to get a gas pipeline built quickly, and to make sure it is the best deal for Alaska. For any project built along with Alaska Highway, it makes common sense that Skagway to be a staging center for the movement of pipe and materials.

3. Education needs to be recognized as an economic engine for Alaska. First - we have to address PERS/TRS. Before we start making more promises, we need to fix the pension system. This directly relates to the quality of education in Alaska. We have to recognize that our obligation to PERS/TRS is robbing dollars out of the classroom.
The mismanagement and poor assumptions that started this problem were under the Knowles Administration. Let’s recognize that $7 billion unfunded liability IS a problem. We should focus our current budget surpluses to pay down the liability over time. Governor Murkowski proposed using $500 million next session – this is a good start. As governor, here's what I envision for every region of the state: We’ll continue to forward fund education. Local governments and school boards need to be able to prepare/plan for their specific needs with certainty. They shouldn't have to worry about handing out pink slips to dedicated staff and then re-hiring them. There are efficiencies in planning ahead – I’m confident our education leaders will make the most of a predictable budget process and we’ll hold each other accountable for every public dollar spent in that arena – making sure money gets into the classroom. I’m also a proponent of vocational education. Not all of our students are made for academia. Let’s prepare the next generation of Alaska&Mac226;s work force by offering our parents and children another viable option in education. Vo-Tech programs in Alaska need to grow and expand.

4. Top priorities:
- building an Alaska natural gas line
- fixing the PERS/TRS system
- adequately funding our education system
- restoring trust by Alaskans in their state government.
we can stabilize the situation over a period of time.