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.
Matt Claman | Democrata | Occupation: Legislator, Attorney | Age: 61| Residence: Anchorage | Relevant experience or prior offices held: Representative, Alaska House of Representatives (2015-present); Acting Mayor of Anchorage (2009); Anchorage Assembly Member (2007-2010) and Chair (2008). | www.mattclaman.com
Why are you running for office?
With my experience as state representative, acting mayor, Assembly member, husband-father-and-son, and active member of our community, I have the vision and values to bring our community together and improve Alaska. I have a passion for improving how our government serves the community and want to help end the partisan politics that have divided people throughout our country. I have a realistic, common-sense understanding of how local and state governments operate, a commitment to making Alaska a better place, and a proven record of working with all legislators to put Alaska first.
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.
A comprehensive strategy to address the coronavirus pandemic is part of a responsible action plan for Alaska. The governor has failed to work with the businesses across Alaska, local governments, schools, and the legislature to organize an effective program. Moving forward, we must work together for effective and economical solutions that improve public health, assist those who have suffered due to the pandemic, teach our children, and strengthen the economy.
What role should the state play in repairing economic damage in Alaska from the pandemic?
The state needs to work effectively with businesses across Alaska, local governments, schools, and the legislature to develop effective and economical solutions that improve public health, assist those who have suffered due to the pandemic, teach our children, and strengthen the economy. Additional federal funding to support responses to the coronavirus pandemic further highlights the need for a comprehensive strategy.
Describe two pressing issues facing your district. What do you plan to do about them if elected?
Improving public safety, supporting quality public education, and strengthening the economy are priorities for my district. Public safety is one of the core functions of government and we must continue working to make wise use of our public safety resources. Forward funding education to prevent teacher layoffs will help protect our constitutional right to public education. Education is our best investment for Alaska’s future. Safe neighborhoods and a strong public education system are building blocks for a stronger economy.
How would you create a sustainable state operating budget that doesn’t borrow annually from the state’s savings to meet shortfalls?
A responsible action plan for Alaska includes diversifying our economy, finding efficiencies in government while maintaining essential services, making cuts where possible, and considering potential new revenue sources.
What is your vision for the Alaska Permanent Fund and the future of the dividend program?
Alaska’s financial challenges demand a responsible action plan that addresses our ability to pay a reasonable dividend.
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 support a dividend that is consistent with a responsible action plan for Alaska. We need to continue finding cuts that improve the efficiency of government while maintaining essential services including public safety and public education.
What are your ideas to improve Alaska’s elementary and high schools?
Our schools need to be adequately funded and supported to succeed. We should forward fund public education and keep pace with inflation. We should focus on supporting and improving public education programs and services within a stable budget. Adequate salaries and retirement benefits for teachers can help improve recruitment and retention.
What is your vision for the University of Alaska?
The University is an economic engine for Alaska and helps keep talented youth in Alaska. Education is our best investment for the future, including vocational and university education.
What would you do to reduce high rates of sexual assault and domestic violence in Alaska?
We must continue to work together to address sexual assault and domestic violence and make Alaska a safe place for all. I have and will continue to support legislation that will help prevent domestic violence and sexual assault and make services more readily available to survivors. In 2016, I received the Bryan P. Timbers Pro Bono award from the Alaska Bar Association for representing victims of domestic violence in divorce cases pro bono. I plan to continue to volunteer as a pro bono attorney for married individuals who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
What are your ideas to stabilize, grow and diversify Alaska’s economy?
Alaska needs a responsible action plan that addresses our financial challenges and grows the economy. Together, we must continue our work to diversify the economy, find more efficiencies in state and municipal government, and develop additional revenue sources. We need to improve public safety while making wise use of our public safety resources, support public education because public education remains our best investment for the future, maintain essential services, and invest in infrastructure to build a foundation for a growing economy.
What’s your position on the proposed Pebble mine?
I do not support the Pebble Mine.
What other important issue would you like to discuss with voters?
The right to vote is one of our essential rights, and I encourage every Alaskan to vote in the November election. In the legislature, I will continue to work with legislators from other parties to find common ground and move our state forward.