I am confident that we can resolve the oil tax debate next Session to the satisfaction of Legislators on both sides of the aisle and the oil industry. The Senate Bipartisan Coalition invested in health, education, capital improvements, and retirement obligations, saving the state $2 billion per year or $5.5 million per day in proposed tax cuts under HB 110 in 2011.
Its successors in 2012, SB 192 and SB 3001 in special session likewise failed not because of the Bipartisan Coalition or Senate intransigence, but because there were no guarantees of increased oil and gas production in exchange for massive reductions in taxes. The Legislature did pass SB 23 to include tax credits on new oil and gas exploration which lays a foundation for tax discussions next Session.
I support mining, but not the size, location, and design of the enormous "Pebble," an oxymoron for the world's largest open pit mine. Pebble is in a pristine protected watershed that could leach acid and pollute groundwater and salmon streams in the headwaters of prolific Bristol Bay. Alaskans have a legitimate fear of environmental damage at Pebble which could be catastrophic and kill off a way of life as well as a highly profitable renewable resource.
While there is no legislative decision pending on Pebble, I doubt seriously whether all the permitting and independent environmental studies will find acceptable risk of harm in assessing whether Pebble is in Alaska's best interest.
Education needs predictable, sufficient funding. As a former 12-year member and president, Anchorage School Board, former Chair, State Board of Education, current vice-chair, Senate Education Committee, I am dedicated to developing long-term budget solutions that include forward funding of K-12 education. We achieved this for a three-year cycle by placing money in the Public Education Fund in advance and passing guaranteed increases in Base Student Allocation to allow districts to make early decisions for the following year creating stability for teachers, students and programs.
When the Governor underfunded education the past two years as school districts appealed for more money, I introduced SB 73 but withdrew it in favor of the Senate Education Committee Bill 171 to increase Base Student Allocation for two consecutive years. SB 171 passed the Senate and was transmitted to the House on February 10, 2012 and referred to House Finance, the only committee of referral on February 13, 2012. It was then shelved for the duration of the Session by House Finance members including my opponent. Because we did not fund education by March, school districts, as required by law, had to issue pink slips for layoffs to teachers.
I do not support a Constitutional Amendment to allow public funding of private and parochial schools. My opponent voted for House Joint Resolution 16 to accomplish this, but the bill was not put to a House vote.
We already have many alternative schools and special programs which should be expanded. I sponsored the first charter school bill to allow parents more choice in educational opportunities. I am not opposed to private education. The framers of the Alaska Constitution knew that Alaska could only become great by maintaining a strong public educational system.
Sen. Bettye Davis, a former Anchorage School Board member and former member of the state House of Representatives, has served in Senate since 2001. She is the Democratic candidate for Senate District M, including parts of East Anchorage and Eagle River.
By SEN. BETTYE DAVIS