Sean Parnell answers questions about the issues in 2014 election for Alaska governor

Sean Parnell - Republican

Office: Governor (Other candidates: Bill Walker)

1. Why are you running for office?

I am running for governor so every Alaskan, including future generations, may have more opportunity and a brighter future. It's about fostering economic growth and strengthening families. It's about using the powers of the office for the maximum benefit of Alaskans. I ask for your vote that I might continue serving you and creating opportunity for Alaskans lasting years to come.

2. Describe three ways in which your administration would try to grow and diversify Alaska's economy.

Alaska's economy is growing as a result of the policies I have pursued:16,000 new jobs; hundreds of new businesses; more oil revenue; billions in new investment on its way to the state. These results for Alaskan speak louder than words. In the years ahead, I will continue making historic progress on a gas line for Alaskans, blow the doors wide open on opportunities for young people in career technical education, and continue standing up for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

3. How would you create a sustainable budget, one that doesn't borrow annually from the state's savings to meet shortfalls?

Spend less. These past two years I led in cutting the budget by $1 billion each year. In 2010 and 2011, I cut spending with the largest vetoes in state history, $300 million and $400 million respectively. My strategy for budget reductions has included addressing the state's biggest cost drivers while requiring departments at the line item level to find efficiencies and lower costs.


4. What amount of state spending do you believe is sustainable? If cuts need to be made, where should most of the money come from, the operations budget or the capital budget?

I have consistently led with this principle: The state should live within its means, like we do in our own households. As we ramp up oil production, our budget will balance without having to dip into reserves. Healthy capital budgets that put Alaskans to work have kept our economy stable the past several years during a time of declining oil investment. My 10-year budget plan has general fund spending capped at $5.6 billion per year through 2024.

5. What additional steps can the state take to promote construction of a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope?

With the passage of SB 138 earlier this year, we are taking steps toward construction of a natural gas pipeline. Federal applications have been submitted, and my administration is now working with potential buyers in Japan. My administration continues to identify various financing mechanisms for the state's portion of this project; thanks to our solid credit rating, we have options. One of the most important steps we can take is to continue on the course set forward in the HOA and the MOU.

6. The voters have chosen Senate Bill 21 or the More Alaska Production Act to generate most of the state's tax revenues. How will you determine whether this tax structure is effective? Do you think any changes should be made to the law in the upcoming legislative session?

No changes should be made this session. The More Alaska Production Act is already benefiting Alaskans and we need to give it a chance. The MAP Act is bringing in more revenue to the state as it better protects Alaskans at these lower oil prices. The Act is bringing new investment back to Alaska and strong job and economic activity in many regions of our state. I will hold the companies accountable for fulfilling on their commitments to bring billions of dollars to invest in our state.

7. The state's savings is being depleted. How low should the savings go before you begin to seriously discuss implementing a widespread tax, such as as a sales or income tax, or reducing Permanent Fund Dividend checks to help pay for services?

This is not the time to pull the trigger on new taxes as that would only be a drag on our growing economy. Alaska's fiscal foundation is secure and our financial books are the envy of 49 other states. Alaska's budget reserves have always been our shock absorber to draw on when oil prices went lower, and today is no different. We must continue to drive spending down. We must live within our means and I am the only candidate running for governor who has ever cut a state budget.

8. What are your specific plans to address the serious problems of leadership, morale and accountability within the Alaska National Guard?

Hire a new, permanent Adjutant General and implement every recommendation of the report written by the National Guard Bureau's Office of Complex Investigation. In doing so, we will restore Guard members' trust and confidence in their Guard leadership. I asked the Guard Bureau for a team of experts to move to Alaska to begin implementing the recommendations. I named Brigadier General Jon K. Mott to lead the special project team. I brought in Adjutant General for Arizona, General McGuire, to serve on the interview team that reviews applicants for the Adjutant General position.

We will continue working in full partnership with the National Guard Bureau and its team, utilizing the full resources of our state, to assure that trust and confidence are restored among Guard members.

9. What are Alaska's three biggest education challenges? What is your plan to address each of them?

We're turning challenges into opportunities. First I championed the Alaska Performance Scholarship, getting students to aim higher. We passed the Alaska Education Opportunity Act, to expand choices in the public school system and strengthen learning environments, such as increased resources for residential and charter schools, and providing digital teaching and dual credits for career-tech. I will continue to focus on career-tech to help students prepare for jobs created by our strong economy.

10. What are your suggestions to increase accountability of public schools?

Our teachers do an outstanding job. As the son of an Alaska public school teacher, I am especially proud of them. The Alaska Performance Scholarship is one way to help teachers inspire students about learning and higher education.

By allowing more flexibility, creating fairness in funding for charter schools, supporting home schooling and alternative or residential schools, we honor the different ways students learn. Getting rid of the outdated Graduation Qualifying Exam was an important step.

11. Would you support a constitutional amendment that would allow public funds to be spent on private or religious K-12 education? If such an amendment were to pass, would you then support voucher or some similar grant to parents of state funds that they could spend on private or religious education for their children?


Parents know best how to educate their own children, but poorer parents in our state don't have the opportunity to choose the school best for their child. The overarching goal is to make sure that students get the best education for them as individuals, and that may mean specialized learning at private or parochial schools. We should honor that choice. I support more school choice for parents, both public and private.

12. What are your plans for improving the quality of education offered through the University of Alaska system?

I have given full support to our campuses by funding the life science building, engineering buildings, and deferred maintenance. I supported legislation for the UAF power plant. Beyond funding, we are able to help our university system by ensuring students are prepared for college. The Alaska Performance Scholarship can be used for in-state learning at our universities or at certain trade schools. High school students taking more rigorous courses will help grow the quality of higher education.

13. Do you support or oppose expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act? Explain.

I oppose expanding the single most expensive part of Obamacare as it has been offered. Our Medicaid system is already unsustainable. Alaska's program covers 151,000 people at about $1.5 billion per year. To expand Medicaid requires approximately $440 million more annually of public dollars to cover 10,000 more people; yet, this program is not working well for those who are in it. We have to fix the existing Medicaid program to make it more sustainable.

14. Are you confident that the current level of state environmental regulation and oversight of offshore oil and gas drilling and shipping is adequate to prevent a major spill in Alaska? If not, where are we deficient and what will you propose to achieve adequate protection?

Yes. Alaska has the most robust environmental oversight of any state and continues to be a leader in offshore oil and gas oversight. I'm proud of our track record in Cook Inlet, where companies have drilled responsibly for years. Our Spill Response Division is strong and well-trained; we must maintain that standard. When Arctic drilling becomes a reality, the state will have to ensure industry has the proper protocols and resources in place to protect Alaska's tremendous natural environment.

15. What is your assessment of Alaska's transportation system? What, if anything, would you change?


Building and maintaining transportation infrastructure is a constitutional priority, drives economic development, and enhances quality of life. First, we must fix what we have. As governor, I established and funded a deferred maintenance plan for our transportation systems and public facilities. Second, I support expanding our network of roads and rail, while keeping our airports fully operational, and building replacement ferries.

16. The Legislature has approved the use of state funds for four mega-projects: the Knik Arm Crossing, the Susitna-Watana dam and two gas line projects. Can the state afford all four, or should one or more be dropped? If so, which?

The question wrongly assumes the state is faced with the choice of funding all to completion. We're not. With each project, information still needs to be gathered and hurdles overcome before we know which are in Alaskans' best interests. We continue advancing each in a deliberate, measured way to gain that information. Once all information is in hand and after public review, the Legislature decides whether to appropriate the funds.

17. State your position on abortion. When should it be allowed, and when should government pay for it? Do you anticipate pushing any legislation, policies or budget proposals that would change the status quo in Alaska?

I am a pro-life governor who will uphold the rule of law. That means that I abide by the statutes of our state and follow the rulings of the Alaska Supreme Court. For example, the Alaska Supreme Court has ruled that the Legislature has the right to limit public funding of abortions to "medically necessary" abortions, and I supported legislation that defined "medical necessity."

18. Should the state subsidy program for films and reality television programs continue? Explain.

Only if it is economically valuable to Alaskans. Two years ago the credit portion of the program was moved into DOR. The Legislature created new incentives for Alaska hire and for rural and winter productions. Legislation passed this year to analyze all our tax credit programs. That analysis will be valuable for policymakers and my office to know how well the program is working, whether Alaskans are getting return on investment, and if we're realizing the anticipated benefits.

19. When is it appropriate to appoint a non-Alaskan to a state board or commission?

As governor I have made approximately 1,000 appointments, most are Alaskans. Alaska's Constitution grants authority to the governor to select individuals from out of state. Where specialized skills are needed, Alaska's pool of uniquely qualified people is very small due to our small population. In those instances, it can be important to open the pool to nonresidents to generate the greatest benefit for Alaskans. We want strong expertise on all our boards and commissions.

20. Are you satisfied with the process by which judges are selected and appointed in Alaska? Explain.

For the most part, the Alaska Judicial Council has done a good job of sending a varied and qualified slate of potential judges to my office. Appointing a judge is a constitutional power of the governor I take very seriously because judges, once appointed, have very little chance of being removed. For that reason, I have personally interviewed every judge candidate that has made it through the Judicial Council process before appointing from that pool of people.

21. Taxation on oil and gas production in Alaska is _____ (Generally higher than it should be / About right / Generally lower than it should be / Other) :


About right

22. Taxation on other industries in Alaska is _____ (Generally higher than it should be / About right / Generally lower than it should be / Other):

About right

23. Taxation on individual citizens in Alaska is _____ (Generally higher than it should be / About right / Generally lower than it should be / Other):

Generally higher than it should be

24. The number of Alaska State Troopers and village public safety officers is _____ (More than necessary / About right / Less than necessary):


Less than necessary

25. If you answered more or less, what specific steps would you take to achieve the right level?

Under my administration, Alaska continues to aggressively recruit, train, and deploy VPSOs and troopers. The number of funded VPSOs has more than doubled and communities that once were without any law enforcement now have a VPSO. Finally, I made sure the troopers were able to stand up a unit to fight trafficking in Alaska -- an effort already demonstrating results. I will continue supporting increased public protection through more troopers and VPSOs.

Website: parnell2014.com


Age: 51

Occupation: Governor, State of Alaska

Current employer: People of Alaska, since July 2009

Employment history: Governor of the State of Alaska, 2009-2014; Lieutenant Governor, 2006-2009; Patton Boggs, LLP 2005-2006; Deputy Director, Division of Oil & Gas, DNR, 2003-2005. Director, Government Relations, Phillips Petroleum/ConocoPhillips AK, 2000-2003; Owner, Sean R. Parnell, Attorney at Law 1991-2000. Alaska State Senator, 1996-2000; Alaska State Representative, 1992-1996

Previous unsuccessful runs for office: 2008 U.S. House

Postsecondary education: Pacific Lutheran University (B.B.A.); University of Puget Sound School of Law (JD)

Military service: None

Spouse's name: Sandy

Children: Two daughters and a son-in-law

Alaska Dispatch News asked each candidate in the major races in Alaska this year to answer a series of written issue questions. Responses were limited to 500 characters.