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.
Sarah L. Vance | Republican | Occupation: State House Representative | Age: 41 | Residence: Homer | Relevant experience or prior offices held: Homemaker | sarahvance.org
Why are you running for office?
I am running for re-election to Alaska State House to continue the work I was elected to do; to fight for the will of the People, follow the law and pursue good governance.
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 leaders have mitigated the threat of the virus effectively by ensuring access to testing and providing resources. However, the balance and long-term effects in the economy and overall health of the people were not taken into full consideration. Many of the mandates infringed upon our constitutional rights and caused economic devastation that could have been prevented with no shutdown. Unfortunately, the distribution of the CARES Act funding was delayed and unable to fill the gaps for businesses who suffered unnecessarily. It is my hope we can begin to focus on recovery to get Alaskans back on their feet.
What role should the state play in repairing economic damage in Alaska from the pandemic?
The State of Alaska should begin by removing all health mandates that limit economic growth and allow the people to determine what is best for their health and wellbeing. Removing burdensome regulations and mandates partnered with distributing the lawful PFD will support families and allow businesses to grow into their full potential, moving us toward recovery.
Describe two pressing issues facing your district. What do you plan to do about them if elected?
Economic stability and maintaining a strong fishery are two pressing issues facing the Lower Kenai Peninsula. I will continue to work to secure investment in infrastructure such as the Homer Large Vessel Harbor that will provide hundreds of jobs, vote for balance and accountability on the Board of Fisheries, and advance legislation to open opportunities for businesses. Another issue raised is the abandoned vehicles that have resulted in arson, environmental concerns, and unsafe roads. Since elected, I have had dozens of abandoned vehicles removed by the roadside and 88 from the long-term parking lot at the Homer Airport and am working to pass legislation to deter vehicle abandonment.
How would you create a sustainable state operating budget that doesn’t borrow annually from the state’s savings to meet shortfalls?
The operating budget should focus on rebuilding our economy to allow growth in the private sector. Strengthening our constitutional spending cap to restrain the growth of government will compel us to find efficiencies, adjust formulas and remove programs that are not fulfilling the needs of Alaskans. Using a waterfall metric beginning with constitutional requirements, statutory, then discretionary; leaves savings for short-term relief.
What is your vision for the Alaska Permanent Fund and the future of the dividend program?
My vision for the Permanent Fund and the PFD is to restore the program to what the founders intended as ownership by the People of Alaska with a full, annual distribution of the dividend. The original formula is not broken and should remain unchanged unless decided by a vote of the People.
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?
This question provides a false narrative because the PFD should have no relation to the state budget as intended by its founders. Alaskans have been demanding legislators follow the law by distributing a full PFD based upon the original formula. The amount of the dividend was never a question until it was politicized and placed into the state budget. It is time the Legislature return to obeying the law and the will of Alaskans.
What are your ideas to improve Alaska’s elementary and high schools?
Parent’s choice in education would dramatically improve the quality of education in Alaska because each child learns differently. Adjusting our formulas to allow funding to follow the child will ensure equal opportunity for maximum return on our investment into their future.
What is your vision for the University of Alaska?
My vision for the University of Alaska is to consolidate services to provide education that increase job opportunities to help Alaska grow in a competitive market. The current structure of the University only provides 16% of its budget toward instruction, and in turn is limited to equip Alaskans for the workforce.
What would you do to reduce high rates of sexual assault and domestic violence in Alaska?
Empowering Alaskans to believe in their own value and to respect one another is fundamental to reducing violence in our communities. Continuing the Choose Respect campaign, strengthening human trafficking laws against criminals and providing support to survivors with public and private partnerships will help turn our rates of assault upside down.
What are your ideas to stabilize, grow and diversify Alaska’s economy?
Balancing our budget, reducing regulation, and focusing investment into maintaining our aging infrastructure will open the doors to economic investment and provide long-term jobs and business opportunities.
What’s your position on the proposed Pebble mine?
The Pebble Project is not a legislative decision and should be afforded the opportunity to responsibly extract our resource wealth for Alaska without compromising our fishery. Pebble must prove they can do business in full compliance of our strict environmental regulations before moving forward.
What other important issue would you like to discuss with voters?
Alaska ranks among the worst in the nation for human trafficking. We are #1 in rape and sexual assault and when we cut that number in half, we will still be number one. It is time we open our eyes to crimes committed against our children. Stand with me to raise awareness to pass stronger laws against those who coerce, exploit and intimidate our most vulnerable.