Challenger Harry Crawford: Budget fix vital; here's a plan



It's time for a change.  That's why I'm running for state House in East Anchorage.

We are in a budget crisis and we need representatives who will work together for the good of all Alaskans. We need leaders who are less afraid of losing their jobs and more focused on doing their jobs. Through a combination of legislative inaction and shortsightedness, we're at a point where we've spent almost all of our savings, the PFD has been cut in half and we're slashing the very programs we should be investing in, while giving away money to companies that don't need it. I've spent more than 40 years helping to build Alaska and I'm ready to go to work to fix the mess in Juneau.

[House District 27: Harry Crawford (Democrat)]

During the last six years, Lance Pruitt has represented us in Juneau. He spent two of those years as House majority leader and the next two on the House Finance Committee — if anyone was in a position to recognize the fiscal crisis and act to avert it, it was him. Instead, he voted for the four largest deficits in state history, ignored possible revenue streams in favor of spending down our savings, and voted for nearly $15 billion in deficit spending.

Our state needs a long-term fiscal plan now. My plan has three parts: 1) Provide incentives to the small independent oil companies that are doing the actual exploring for new oil and claw back the incentives to the Big Three, saving the state millions; 2) focus on building a smaller natural gas line that gets energy to our communities for our businesses and homes, and 3) invest in education to power the next generation of economic growth for our state.

First, we need to provide exploration incentives to the companies actually exploring for new oil. The current Legislature gave away hundreds of millions of dollars to the Big Three oil companies with no requirement for increased production. I would get that money back to help balance our budget. We can then provide targeted incentives to the small independent oil producers to find new deposits and increase production. My Big Three would be Caelus, Armstrong and Hilcorp, companies that will help us fill the oil pipeline and create jobs well into the future.


Second, we have been focused too long on a huge export pipeline for natural gas. This project has faced determined opposition from the majors and its sheer size makes the economics difficult. I would concentrate on building a smaller line that gets energy to Alaskans for our homes and businesses. This Alaska line can later be expanded as our export markets develop.

Third, I would invest in our children's education at all levels.

Investments in public education pay for themselves many times over, due to better academic outcomes, better career opportunities and lower incarceration and drug abuse rates. Investments in the university system produce educated workers prepared to build Alaska's future. Alaska's university system should be an economic engine for the state as a whole. The university system has absorbed substantial budget cuts, and entire departments and sports teams are already being cut. Too many of our students graduate from high school, attend college Outside and do not return.

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Whether it's natural gas, geothermal, tidal, wind or hydropower, Alaska's energy potential is nearly limitless. Harnessing power from these resources will allow us to develop more local manufacturing and increase our economic stability through diversification and increased exports. We have the building blocks necessary to build our economy — but we need leaders willing to recognize and seize the opportunities in front of us.

I had the honor to represent East Anchorage for 10 years in the state House. During that time, our budgets were always finished on time and we were able to work together to put $14 billion into the state's savings accounts. I passed laws to stop stalkers and to prevent insurance companies from gouging consumers based on a changed credit score. I proposed four constitutional amendments to preserve the PFD for future generations. I wrote and helped pass ballot initiatives that gave Alaska the toughest political finance laws in the country and gave us the right to vote on our U.S. Senate vacancies.

I lived through the economic crash of the late 1980s and I remember it vividly — but not fondly. A repeat is not inevitable but continued inaction is not an option. The biggest threat to the PFD and to our children's future is the lack of a plan. I have a plan to move forward. My opponent has shown that he does not.

It's time for a change. I hope to earn your vote on Nov. 8.

Harry Crawford is the Democratic candidate in state House District 27. As an iron worker, he helped construct the trans-Alaska pipeline, Bradley Lake hydropower project and infrastructure statewide while raising a family in Chugach Foothills. He served as East Anchorage's representative in the state House from 2001 to 2011.

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email to commentary@alaskadispatch.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@alaskadispatch.com.