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.
James Baisden | Non-affiliated | Occupation: Chief of Staff, Kenai Peninsula Borough | Age: 56 | Residence: Kenai | Relevant experience or prior offices held: Chief of Emergency Services, Kenai Peninsula Borough 2018 Fire Chief, Nikiski Fire Service Area 2007 - 2018 Assistant Fire Chief, City of Kenai 2005 - 2007 Fire Marshal, City of Kenai 1998 - 2005 Deputy Fire Marshal, State of Alaska 1995 - 1998 | baisdenforhouse.com
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.
State leadership has tried hard to keep Alaskans safe based on CDC & state health care guidelines. The State has been too slow in allowing things to recover and get back to normal. I’m against any state mandates as it relates to the pandemic. Education on proper safeguards is what I want to see from state government. Allow the private sector to recover faster.
What role should the state play in repairing economic damage in Alaska from the pandemic?
Concentrate on helping small businesses recover with Cares Act Funding, and allow businesses to stay open for business.
Describe two pressing issues facing your district. What do you plan to do about them if elected?
Better fish management for the Cook Inlet and Kenai River so all user groups can be successful. Hold meeting on the Kenai Peninsula so citizens can attend and make their voice heard. Incentivize industry and business development on the Kenai with less regulations.
How would you create a sustainable state operating budget that doesn’t borrow annually from the state’s savings to meet shortfalls?
Every segment of our state will have to be affected to balance the budget. The size of the operating budget will have to be reduced smartly. The fight will be to cut spending, tax the group that doesn’t effect you, and go after the PFD. I’m a Fiscally Conservative Candidate.
What is your vision for the Alaska Permanent Fund and the future of the dividend program?
I support a PFD and want to see every Alaskan receive the largest PFD possible. We must Protect the Corpus of the Permanent Fund and use no more than a 5% draw to support the earnings reserve annually.
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 smaller government, and every segment of the budget will need to be looked at for reductions. The constitutional budget reserve has been depleted, and it took the state years of spending more without the needed revenues to get to this point. The budget will not be balanced in one year, it will take several years to right size our state budget.
What are your ideas to improve Alaska’s elementary and high schools?
I have 3 children in the Kenai Peninsula Public School System, and I see great teachers doing great work. Educators need help starting with family involvement at home and then in the schools. I support our local home school programs as well as the public schools. We have to find ways to support our teachers and students in order for future Alaskans to be successful.
What is your vision for the University of Alaska?
Just like our local public school system we have to have a strong Alaska University system. We have to be smarter and more efficient, and the university is going to have to make some tough budget decisions in the future. The state will not be able to continue funding at past budget levels.
What would you do to reduce high rates of sexual assault and domestic violence in Alaska?
I’m a big supporter of Public Safety, and I want to see our State Troopers and Village Public Safety Officers supported by our state and local communities. We need strong laws and legislation to punish and deter sexual assault violence.
What are your ideas to stabilize, grow and diversify Alaska’s economy?
I want to see less government, more incentives for industry to safely produce oil and gas, and to take politics out of fishing, so all groups can be successful proving jobs for Alaskan families.
What’s your position on the proposed Pebble mine?
I’m pro development, because we need jobs for Alaskans. I’m split on Pebble mine. I want to see a fair environment approval process completed from our state and federal government that it shows the mine will not have a negative effect on our fish and wildlife.
What other important issue would you like to discuss with voters?
I’m a lifelong Conservative Republican running as a petition candidate for District 30 for the Kenai & Soldotna Area. If elected, it will be difficult to balance the budget with such a large deficit. Every decision that I make as your Representative will be based on making conservative choices that make it easier for our children and the future generations of Alaskans.