The Anchorage Daily News asked candidates for the Alaska Legislature in Southcentral Alaska to answer a series of issue questions. Read all of them here.
Lyn Franks | Democrat | Occupation: Educator | Age: 65 | Residence: Anchorage | Relevant experience or prior offices held: Adjunct instructor, history-UAA, AFACT member, March On Alaska member, House District 15 chair-2017 to 2020 | lynfranksforstatehouse.com
Why are you running for office?
I’m running for the Alaska State Legislature, House District 15 because I want to make an active difference in my community. I’ve lived here for 32 years and raised my family in Muldoon. I want to give back to the community that’s given so much to me. The state faces some tough decisions and I believe that I can represent my community with the experience and integrity to get the job done. That is why I’m fighting for Muldoon!
The coronavirus pandemic has changed life in Alaska. In addition to ongoing public health threats, the state has seen serious, long-term impacts to its economy and jobs, education system, tourism and the ability for residents to travel. Have state leaders handled the pandemic effectively? Explain.
Not enough has been done to protect the citizens of the State of Alaska, their businesses, and our way of life. It has become more apparent than ever that it should be the job of government to provide the help we need during times of crisis. It is clear that we need affordable healthcare for all and, at this time, that includes free, widespread COVID-19 testing.
What role should the state play in repairing economic damage in Alaska from the pandemic?
The state is responsible for distributing the Federal CARES Act monies in a responsible way. So far, the businesses and people of Alaska have yet to receive the support that was expected from Federal and Alaska CARES Act funds. These include funding for small businesses, enhanced unemployment benefits, testing, and other COVID-19 healthcare related expenses. As the State of Alaska moves forward, it will be important to support Alaskans and Alaskan businesses. It will be important that the State Legislature do everything in its power to help repair the damage from the COVID-19 pandemic. All options should be on the table to help the people of Alaska.
Describe two pressing issues facing your district. What do you plan to do about them if elected?
House District 15 is a district of hard-working people. Many work two or three jobs to make ends meet and many are single parent providers. Many families in my district depend on state services as well as other state programs, such as the PFD, to make ends meet. It is imperative to me that these services be funded and protected. As a legislator, I will work with other legislators and fight for what District 15 deserves.
Another issue that is important to me and my district is education. During COVID, it has become increasingly difficult for parents working multiple jobs to oversee their children’s education. The people of District 15 need real, working, solutions to
help address the problems that they are faced with every day. Forward-funding education is key to addressing the problems facing education in the State of Alaska today.
How would you create a sustainable state operating budget that doesn’t borrow annually from the state’s savings to meet shortfalls?
The people of District 15 cannot afford any new taxes. It’s clear that the State of Alaska needs new revenue sources to maintain its current budget. I hope to have meaningful and constructive conversations with the constituents of District 15 and State Legislators, to come up with viable solutions.
Today, with a changing climate that is disrupting people’s lives, our solutions need to be significant and immediate. I will encourage business growth that is committed to promoting sustainability and living wages, while creating long lasting jobs for Alaskans.
What is your vision for the Alaska Permanent Fund and the future of the dividend program?
I believe Alaskans should be receiving their full, statutory Permanent Fund Dividend. I believe that the Permanent Fund should be protected in the Alaska Constitution for every Alaskan, forever. I would like to see smart investments and the growth of the fund to help benefit every Alaskan.
The state is projecting a $2.3 billion deficit for the next fiscal year if the Permanent Fund dividend is paid using the traditional formula in state law. If no dividend is paid, the deficit would be about $300 million. Do you support cutting services to pay a larger dividend? If so, what services would you cut first?
I do not support cutting services, but I do support cutting redundant programs and positions. However, it’s clear that cuts cannot and will not balance our State budget while still providing the services that Alaskans need. The Legislature has been dealing with the fallout from previous cuts to state services by the Governor. Many of these cuts have deeply hurt the people of District 15.
The State of Alaska needs to be looking for additional revenue sources. If budget cuts and current income can’t balance the budget, more income needs to come from somewhere. I will fight to make sure that money does not come from the pockets of the people of Alaska.
What are your ideas to improve Alaska’s elementary and high schools?
Forward-funding education will help improve Alaska’s elementary and high schools. Currently the State is dealing with a shortage of teachers because of problems with annual funding. I believe that by forward funding our public schools, Alaska can begin to retain high-quality educators by giving them the job security that they need.
Alaskan education is unique in that it is incredibly diverse and stretches over a massive area! It is important that all Alaskans receive the quality education that they deserve.
What is your vision for the University of Alaska?
The budget cuts in 2019 decimated the UA system. Many essential degree programs were lost as a result and many educators and students left the state. The University of Alaska has lost the trust of many Alaskans and I would like to see them work to grow that community trust again. A strong university system is key to a diverse and robust economy. We must advocate for the funding of our university systems and help the expansion of Alaskan industries.
What would you do to reduce high rates of sexual assault and domestic violence in Alaska?
Alaska has a major issue with sexual assault and domestic violence that must be addressed. I believe that by fixing current State Statute, we can better protect the victims of these abuses.
If elected, I will fight to reallocate funding for community-based public safety. Budget cuts to the court system have exacerbated problems surrounding sexual assault and domestic violence. Because of this, court cases are not moving forward, leaving victims without protection.
District 15 has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the state, and I will fight tirelessly to help protect victims.
What are your ideas to stabilize, grow and diversify Alaska’s economy?
In order to stabilize Alaska’s economy, Alaskans themselves need to feel stable. We can do this by protecting our homes and our jobs and our Alaskan way of life. I will work with other stakeholders to expand Alaskan jobs through diversifying industry and helping to support current Alaskan businesses.
What’s your position on the proposed Pebble mine?
I am for responsible development and resource extraction when it does not harm surrounding resources or industries. The Pebble Partnership has not proven to me at this point that this project can be done safely and responsibly and so I stand with the fishermen of Bristol Bay in opposing this mine, as it currently stands.
What other important issue would you like to discuss with voters?
The State of Alaska is currently spending money to fight the JANUS Decision and undermine unions. I believe that unions are integral to a strong workplace and a diverse economy. Every Alaskan has the right to earn a living wage without having to hold down two or three jobs to accomplish that. It’s time to become proactive and elect people who honor labor and not just capital.