Meet your gubernatorial candidates: Mark Begich, Democrat, former U.S. Senator

The Cordova Times asked the Alaska gubernatorial candidates the same 5 questions

1. How would your administration balance the needs and allocations of all fisheries user groups, taking into consideration the importance of commercial fisheries to the statewide revenue stream?

Commercial fishing for salmon, halibut, groundfish, crab and more is major part of Alaska’s economy. Subsistence, sport and personal use fisheries also contribute heavily to our Alaska lifestyle, tourism and Alaska Native culture. I will reach out – as I always have – to fishermen, processors, personal use and subsistence harvesters across the state to find the most qualified person for Commissioner of Fish and Game (ADF&G). Alaska needs an individual committed to focusing on these important issues. Major fishing regions need representation on the Board of Fish and organizations representing commercial fishers need to be included in the discussion when considering appointments. My administration will pay close attention to the Board of Fish process and work to strengthen Alaska’s fisheries management bodies. In addition, I will install a person in a cabinet-level position who will make fisheries their number one priority every day.

2. How do you plan to impartially serve all Alaskans, regardless of their political viewpoint?

Alaska is at a crossroads. We need meaningful change now more than ever if we are going to get our state back on track. It will take all of us coming together to make this change happen. It doesn’t matter one’s political affiliation, we are all Alaskans. We all want safe communities, good schools for our kids, and a robust, stable economy with well-paying jobs. I have always been able to work across the aisle and get a job done by finding common ground. This is the same approach I will take in the Governor’s office. I plan on listening to whoever had the best ideas and surrounding myself with people best qualified to get jobs done so we can move Alaska forward and build a better future for all Alaskans.

3. Now that the Alaska Permanent fund is being used to balance the state budget, what is your specific plan to address the chasm between state revenues and expenditures and to restore economic balance?

First, I have a plan for the Permanent Fund that would guarantee a sustainable PFD while also protecting the fund and its future from politicians down the line. The heart of my plan, which I have called the “Invest in Alaska Plan” involves using the percentage of market value (POMV) formula and includes:

  1. Constitutionally protecting the PFD
  2. Inflation proofing the Permanent Fund
  3. Using 50 percent of POMV formula for a sustainable dividend for Alaskans
  4. Dedicating remaining funds for pre-K-12 education

Using this common-sense approach would:

  • Guarantee Alaskans a PFD estimated between $1,600 and $1,800 a year.
  • Free up general funds previously used for education – this year that number could have been as much as $1.6 billion
  • Protect education funding from being on the political chopping block

Second, we need to reform delivery of government services, move from a one- year budget process to two years, and move away from paying cash for capital budgets. This would not only create a sound budgeting process, but also create the long-term stability our state needs. After employing all these options then I believe we may have to review the revenues we currently produce and consider revamping or adding new revenues. This should only be considered after we have taken the necessary and responsible steps to improve and reform our current process.

4. What would you do to support continuous adequate funding for the Alaska Marine Highway System, and the scheduling needed to serve coastal communities? 

Our Alaska ferry system is our highway on the water and must be affordable to use, predictable and sustainable. Our coastal communities, fisheries, families, workers, school districts, sports teams and visitors rely on this service and it should be a priority just like roads, runways and bridges. Safe, modern ports, vessels, harbors and docks are key. Improvements, upgrades and maintenance must be planned and accounted for. I plan to update the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) to better serve all communities and utilize general obligation bonds for long-term capital improvements. These will be called Community Investment Bonds and truly serve Alaska communities.

5. What role do you see tribes playing in Alaska’s future?

Tribes are the closest form of government to the people and I’ve always believed have the best feel for how local solutions work. That is why I am a strong supporter of tribal self-governance and understand how the government to government relationship has evolved and grown over time. We have seen how tribes can play an important role in public safety, health care, justice, infrastructure, and more. That is why as governor, I will continue my inclusive approach of bringing people together and making sure that processes are open, transparent, and involve local and tribal input because that is how we find the best solutions for all Alaskans.