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.
Paul D. Dale | Non-affiliated | Occupation: Semi retired and self employed | Age: 67 | Residence: Nikiski | Relevant experience or prior offices held: Legislative Aide 1981, Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly 1982-1985 | Votepauldale.com
Why are you running for office?
I am a lifelong 67 years old Alaskan and have sold most of our business assets in the last year. I have always been interested in Alaskan politics but focused on my family and growing business as a younger man. I now have the time, interest, experience and focus to serve my community and Alaska in the legislature.
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.
For the most part, yes. There have been self inflicted unintentional decisions that have delayed the implementation of significant portions of the Cares Act. Alaskans need and deserve the best and fastest possible implementation to get these relief monies on the street. Local communities have acted faster than the state in this regard.
What role should the state play in repairing economic damage in Alaska from the pandemic?
The state’s role in repairing the economy due to the pandemic would be primarily assisting in the distribution of federal Cares ACT funding; what good is government unless it functions effectively during a national crisis? There are cases where the State could and should postpone payments due from businesses and individuals until our economy recovers. Holding school districts harmless regarding pandemic-induced reductions in enrollments is also something the state should do.
Describe two pressing issues facing your district. What do you plan to do about them if elected?
Two pressing issues facing District 29: Hold harmless on reduced school enrollments and make sure that our Borough and communities have enough continued support to keep schools, public safety, health services, and road maintenance adequately funded throughout the likely state budget adjustment process in the next Legislature. As a representative, my focus will always be on our community’s general welfare as we take the needed steps to balance Alaska’s budget.
How would you create a sustainable state operating budget that doesn’t borrow annually from the state’s savings to meet shortfalls?
The first would be to recognize that we absolutely need to achieve a balanced budget without spending down our savings. As a business owner, I often had to make tough decisions on both expenses and revenues. I believe that my approach would be similar to how we handled those challenges in our business: long term planning, long term goals, results based measurements of success and failure and continual improvement while being responsible to my clients, the public. I would say nothing is off the table for me in accomplishing this effort except for spending down the Permanent Fund itself.
What is your vision for the Alaska Permanent Fund and the future of the dividend program?
I worked as a legislative aide to Kenai Representative Hugh Malone in 1981, the session that adopted the PFD program. My vision would echo the vision of those at that time, to set aside a percentage of oil revenues to help accomplish an eventual soft landing from declining oil revenues sometime in the future. I think that future is now upon us, and we will need to move carefully to maximize the opportunity given us by some farsighted public servants more than forty years ago. The dividend program, at least in the view of Hugh Malone, was to create a pocketbook connection with ordinary Alaskans to prevent future lawmakers from simply spending the fund itself, that without that protection the fund might never grow to its potential. Thankfully, that vision has been, at least in part, realized. Budgets are unavoidably about priorities. So, in that regard, I am in favor of a functioning government and a dividend check amount we can afford, in that order.
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 critical services to pay a larger dividend. We have cut the state’s operating and capital budgets significantly these last five years. Expense reviews and adjustments should always be scrutinized in the legislative budget process, and some savings can and will occur as part of that process going forward. But the size of savings we will find will hardly fund larger dividends.
What are your ideas to improve Alaska’s elementary and high schools?
Fiscally we are facing challenges to maintaining even flat funding of education in Alaska. The pandemic is another huge challenge with uncertain and mostly negative implications. I trust that Alaska’s education professionals will deliver the best possible service to our children under the circumstances, and some of the pandemic responses may hold value for future educational delivery to certain areas of operations.
What is your vision for the University of Alaska?
The cuts have been significant, and major changes have occurred, and will continue to occur as the University struggles to fit within the budget constrains on them. I hope they maintain the degree programs most important to Alaskans seeking higher education, and continue supplying Alaskan businesses and institutions with graduates ready to move Alaska forward.
What would you do to reduce high rates of sexual assault and domestic violence in Alaska?
In rural Alaska, an emphasis on female Village public safety officers could be explored with possible positive results. The overall health of our economy certainly influences these rates, so improvement there would be beneficial. Laws need to be strengthened, education programs implemented and a commitment made to reducing this completely unacceptable record of violence in our state.
What are your ideas to stabilize, grow and diversify Alaska’s economy?
Firstly, to stabilize would be to secure a balanced budget, that would boost the confidence of our citizens and businesses, and that of our investors and partners. There is no doubt in my mind that we can do better to grow our businesses in Alaska. Seafood, tourism, mining, small manufacturing and the newer internet-based tech businesses are all able to help our economy. The state leaders should spend less time squabbling and more time helping.
What’s your position on the proposed Pebble mine?
I am quite supportive of mining in Alaska, Pebble Mine though, would be an exception for me, wrong mine, wrong place!
What other important issue would you like to discuss with voters?
Partisanship is a problem in Alaska and is in the way of securing a better footing for stability and growth. I am a non-partisan candidate; most Alaskans are unaffiliated with traditional political parties, and we are the only state in the Union where these numbers exceed the total of R’s and D’s combined. While no one knows what this trend really means, it could be that these diverse individuals see traditional politics as having become increasingly nonproductive. Thank you for reading, and I would appreciate your vote on November 3rd.