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.
Lance Pruitt | Republican | Occupation: Legislator | Age: 39 | Residence: Anchorage | Relevant experience or prior offices held: House Rep 10 Years (including Majority Leader, Finance Member, Minority Leader); Community Council | www.lancepruitt.com
Why are you running for office?
East Anchorage and Alaska need the experience I have gained over the last 10 years to help guide us through this challenging time. Alaskans also don’t worry about me trying to imply I am something or someone I am not. I continue to be humbled by their support for me representing them, and for that I feel compelled to continue to serve.
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.
Some have, some have not. Initial legislation was a compromise despite some people trying to use the pandemic to stuff their agenda down Alaskans throats. Some legislators tried to take portions of the AK Cares Act money to start new programs or fund their priorities. If it had not been for leaders including the Senate Majority and the House Republicans, money, such as the $290 Million for businesses set aside by the Governor, would have ben siphoned off to create brand new long term programs, not specifically related to the pandemic, with temporary funding.
What role should the state play in repairing economic damage in Alaska from the pandemic?
First establish a Spending Cap. Outside capital is ready to invest but is looking for stability. A spending cap will give an element of stability and predictability. Second use the assets we have such as AIDEA to offer any variety of loans for effected businesses. We can transfer money sitting in unused loan programs sprinkled throughout state balance sheets and consolidate that money for the purpose of providing capital to those hit by the pandemic. Third don’t accelerate the flight of capital by implementing new overreaching taxes on businesses. Finally, I am and will remain against the legislature dictating the investment actions of the Permanent Fund, but the fund is already setting aside money to be invested directly into Alaska. Maybe some of that can be specifically set aside for aiding in recovery.
Describe two pressing issues facing your district. What do you plan to do about them if elected?
The city is trying to impose indefinite shutdowns and people are absolutely frightened by what this will do to their jobs and businesses based on the experience they have had already. The state cannot afford to keep bailing out the city, who will lose financially due to their poor decisions, and then subsequently come to the state to make them whole. While the city controls their actions, I can make sure someone with the same mentality does not go down to Juneau by winning re-election. People are still worried about crime. While they recognize SB 91 has been repealed, the damage has been done. They don’t recognize the city they have lived in their whole life. They are definitely not clamoring for the police to be defunded. Leaders can still take a look at things like the collateral consequences to sentencing and start bridging the gap between the corrections system and moving on to a life devoid of crime.
How would you create a sustainable state operating budget that doesn’t borrow annually from the state’s savings to meet shortfalls?
What is your vision for the Alaska Permanent Fund and the future of the dividend program?
A spending cap will help prevent the pilfering of the fund which needs to be protected and managed for the future. We should consider connecting the PFD directly to our resource extraction. The more successful our responsible resource extraction is in a given year, the more successful the PFD. This kicking the can down the road and not being able to budget because of the fights over the PFD is not working.
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?
The dividend amount will be a compromise, but we need to talk about how to make the formula stable and not at the whims of legislators each year. Some reductions and restructuring of how we delivery services are vital as well. I am open to discussing the efficient operation of everything. The problem for years has been that people are afraid to talk about certain things because it is not politically popular. We as a state must be willing to talk about all of those “off limits” items.
What are your ideas to improve Alaska’s elementary and high schools?
Refocus back on results. Other states have implemented a system where the lowest performing school districts fall temporarily under the control of the state to bring them back up to proficiency. We also could combine some school districts to eliminate the artificial silos having over 50 school districts creates.
What is your vision for the University of Alaska?
We need to educate our students to join the workforce. For that we do not need 450 degree programs including ones without students. We have One(1) University not three and the culture with in the university needs to reflect that. We don’t need duplicative programs at multiple campuses. The University needs to refocus on being community driven not specific personnel driven. The Board of Regents need to wake up, because they have been warned that not making efficient changes would lead to today’s challenges for at least the 10 years I have been in office. I have also authored resolutions in the last two legislatures calling on Congress to give our land grand University their proper land allotments so the University can offset what the state cannot provide with more land managed finances.
What would you do to reduce high rates of sexual assault and domestic violence in Alaska?
There is a reason why I opposed SB 91, because lighter sentences cannot reduce SA and DV in our state. I am still shocked that I had colleagues who still thought it was okay for Marriage to remain a defense for Rape. If leaders will continue to defend SA then they need to be removed. We need to change the culture in general. Gov Parnell’s program to Choose Respect was a great program to train both our children and remind adults that real men Choose Respect. It seemed like under the previous administration that program did not get the emphasis it deserved. Its is time to elevate it to the forefront again. We also absolutely have a need for additional treatment in our state. One big concern I have though is the oversight to ensure programs deliver the results we need. Just because you create a non-profit saying you want to help, does not mean we should hand over the money. Some people claim they are there to help with treatment, but really are just seeing dollar signs.
What are your ideas to stabilize, grow and diversify Alaska’s economy?
Spending Cap!!! We need to prioritize our operations and refocus some attention to our Capital budget. Putting Alaskans to work in maintaining our infrastructure is vital. We still need to build roads to resources that will put people to work and bring revenue to the state. Also strategic investments in specific energy projects to a point were partnerships can be made to complete the work will allow for stable energy costs. If we want to add value added processing we need predictable low cost energy. Finally we need to pass a version of my One In One Out bill for regulations, ensuring that any administration cannot just add new regulations without getting rid of old ones that bog down investment.
What’s your position on the proposed Pebble mine?
Alaska has one of, if not the, strongest regulatory regimes in the world. Every resource option should be given an opportunity to go through the process so the science can be used to determine and guide decisions.
What other important issue would you like to discuss with voters?
There are people running for office who try to imply they are something they really are not. Don’t elect people who are only running because they want a title or want to bolster their ego. Remind candidates that they are there to serve not be served. Alaskans right now need strong leaders ready to do the right thing and ready to be open and honest with their constituents on why they believe those decisions are responsible.