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.
Josh Revak | Republican | Occupation: State senator | Age: 39 | Residence: Anchorage | Relevant experience or prior offices held: Representative, Dist 25 | www.joshrevak.com
Why are you running for office?
We all share a common vision. I believe we all want the best public safety possible. We want a healthy economic environment void of unnecessary and overburdensome regulations, so our small businesses can thrive again. We want the best education for our kids. We want good jobs for Alaskans and a government we can trust. I want these things too. That’s why I’m running. If you agree and you live in District M I’d be honored by your vote.
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.
Many effects of this pandemic have been unprecedented. Overall, CARES ACT money made it through the legislature and I commend the hundreds of Alaskans that worked hard on the policy. Although, the distribution of funds could have been handled in a more expeditious manner. Waiting so long to determine whether or not the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee had the authority to do so was frustrating. At a local level, I regret that such a small portion of the funds were allocated toward failing businesses, while bigger portions were used to build bike trails and buy hotels to house the homeless.
What role should the state play in repairing economic damage in Alaska from the pandemic?
The State should ensure the equitable distribution of federal funds to assist those who have been most drastically impacted by COVID-19. I believe we will need to look at the impacts on our tourism related small businesses. Tourism was a fast-growing industry last year. Now, there are many that will end this season with little or no annual revenues at all.
Describe two pressing issues facing your district. What do you plan to do about them if elected?
Crime and budget sustainability. I’d like to continue the work we started by repealing SB91 to support law enforcement and reduce criminal activity. I would like to see a spending cap in place.
How would you create a sustainable state operating budget that doesn’t borrow annually from the state’s savings to meet shortfalls?
Cultivate new responsible resource development projects, reductions in spending to programs that are not statutorily or constitutionally mandated, and cap spending.
What is your vision for the Alaska Permanent Fund and the future of the dividend program?
We must protect the Permanent Fund corpus so that future generations can receive the benefits of a dividend and the earnings revenues can provide for future essential state needs and services.
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?
While reasonable efficiencies in state organizations must be explored, we must also find fiscal balance in our data-driven decision process. I have heard time-and-time-again from the folks I represent, they do not want an income tax in exchange for a bigger dividend.
What are your ideas to improve Alaska’s elementary and high schools?
Our schools have been held harmless from cuts during past sessions, and continue to enjoy more funding per capita than almost any other state. We need to ensure that our educators have the tools necessary to provide the best education possible, but at the same time we should have confidence that our kids are getting the best quality education possible.
What is your vision for the University of Alaska?
We all want the UA system to be the best university possible for Alaskans, but each campus can’t be everything to everyone. They need to take a closer look at capitalizing on the mass of lands they own, with a vision of becoming more self-reliant. UA success rests primarily in the hands of the Board of Regents and their vision for the future of the university.
What would you do to reduce high rates of sexual assault and domestic violence in Alaska?
Chemical dependency and suicide are very personal issues for me and my extended family. I look forward to helping create and fund programs that are proven successful to reduce alcohol and drug abuse, while increasing the number of job opportunities, and ensuring repeat offenders end up in jail.
What are your ideas to stabilize, grow and diversify Alaska’s economy?
Diversification is a long term plan. It must start with cheaper, more abundant energy sources and work toward scalable value added industries related to the minerals we are already extracting. We have ample opportunities for renewable energies across Alaska from hydro to geothermal. If businesses have cheaper, renewable energy it will make Alaska more attractive to value added, scalable manufacturing industries and provide thousands of jobs in the future. It starts with energy.
What’s your position on the proposed Pebble mine?
There is a process in place that will determine whether or not the mine will have harmful effects on the Bristol Bay fishery. This process needs to occur first, however, if it is determined there will be harmful impacts I cannot support that proposal. It is critical that we don’t trade one resource for another.
What other important issue would you like to discuss with voters?
There will always be new challenges and issues arising. I grew up working hard on a farm, I’ve been wounded in combat, earned an MBA with academic honors while recovering, and worked for Senator Sullivan and Congressman for nearly a decade. I am husband and father of two daughters in the ASD. I am confident those experiences will help guide me through challenges as they arise.