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.
Kathy Henslee | Republican | Occupation: Business owner | Age: 54 | Residence: Anchorage | Relevant experience or prior offices held: I’ve not held any office. I’ve owned a business, worked as a program director for a non-profit in Alaska, raised a family and been a military wife. | henslee4house.com
Why are you running for office?
I believe in the future of Alaska. We have everything we need for our families to succeed right here. With responsible management of all our resources, cooperative leadership and a strong support of the citizens of Alaska, we can have a secure and prosperous state once again. I want to be a part of that solution.
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.
As a state I believe responsible steps have been taken. The city of Anchorage, however, has been put in a terrible situation because of the lock down. I talk to people every day in my neighborhoods and this is the number one thing they want to talk about. Families have had to leave jobs to take care of kids. They’ve lost jobs because of the strangle hold on small businesses. They are frusterated and ready to get back to making more of their own decisions about their health and welfare. I trust people to make those decisions. At first we were all willing to make pretty drastic changes until we knew more about what we were dealing with. Now we see the numbers in Alaska are low and with reasonable risk management it’s time to get back to work.
What role should the state play in repairing economic damage in Alaska from the pandemic?
Continue to distribute the CARES Act money and work on making things simpler and smoother in regards to bringing us all back to having the ability to support our families.
Describe two pressing issues facing your district. What do you plan to do about them if elected?
The two issues I hear most about as I talk to my neighbors are the PFD and the way Anchorage is being run. Our state budget is in a mess. Government seems to look at the permanent fund as a solution for that mess. The more money they get their hands on the more money they spend. People in my district are asking for two things, 1. Have a formula to calculate the PFD and stick to that formula. 2. Have a reasonable budget and and stick to that budget. People are angry with this mayor and assembly. They do not listen and they really don’t seem to care. I will always listen and I do care about all Alaskans. Our great city should be supporting small businesses, not shutting them down. They should be listening to families about crime in their neighborhoods. This is not the way to treat the hard working, tax paying people of Anchorage.
How would you create a sustainable state operating budget that doesn’t borrow annually from the state’s savings to meet shortfalls?
A constitutional budget cap that actually works is very important to Alaska. A sustainable state operating budget will include a reduction in spending, services that are provided with structural reforms and efficiencies and working with the private sector to encourage investment in Alaska.
What is your vision for the Alaska Permanent Fund and the future of the dividend program?
Have a formula to calculate the PFD and stick to that formula. The government has mishandled our money for so long, it does not make sense to take money out of the pockets of hard working families and just hand it over, again. A family of four in Alaska has lost over $20,000 in PFD’s in the last five years.
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 think this question is very interesting. “using the traditional formula in STATE LAW.” If we are going to reduce peoples dividends shouldn’t we at least go through the motion of actually changing the state law? This seems so unethical to me. Yes, Alaska has been on a spending spree. The solution will be difficult and but simply taking money because it’s there is not the answer. The answer will be multi-faceted, we can have a balanced budget and a sustainable PFD.
What are your ideas to improve Alaska’s elementary and high schools?
We spend more money per student than any other state. I understand Alaska is huge and we have a very beautiful and diverse population. Spending more per student may be appropriate but we need to spend that money wisely. The other problems we are looking at is that many of our students are struggling and many of our teachers feel unsupported. More money-failing students-unhappy teachers. Things need to change. We need creativity, innovation and competition to encourage progress. Let’s take a good look at schools that are winning and implement changes. Since the lock down parents have interacted with what teachers are working with and what their kids are experiencing. Now is a great time to be creative.
What is your vision for the University of Alaska?
I’m so grateful for the University of Alaska! Improved accountability, more efficiency, and reasonable budgeting will be a good start. Just like many government institutions, it has not been run as well as it could have been . That needs to change. We need to be proud of our university system again!
What would you do to reduce high rates of sexual assault and domestic violence in Alaska?
Prosecuting the offender and strong penalties need to be supported. This is a problem in Alaska that marks our people and undermines our security. Encourageing counseling and support for victims is essential.
What are your ideas to stabilize, grow and diversify Alaska’s economy?
Alaska is a resource rich state including oil, gas, mining, logging, hunting, fishing, tourism, shipping, military, university, small businesses, and enthusiastic, energetic people! Economic opportunity and liberty support innovative and creative solutions to create the prosperous future we are moving toward.
What’s your position on the proposed Pebble mine?
The process we have in place to get permitting is working the way it should. I believe we should continue to trust the process. If this project can move forward in a way that is safe and prosperous it may provide jobs and resources that are desired all over the world.
What other important issue would you like to discuss with voters?
As I have met so many of my neighbors, the number one thing I have noticed is that Alaskans are passionate about Alaska, the United States Of America and their families! They want a future here for themselves and their children. They believe in each other and know we can do better! I believe those things too. Now is not the time to give up on the American dream. Now is the time to remember what has been fought for. Thank you for all your encouragement, I’m ready to get to work!