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Where they stand (10/22/2006)

Running for governor

Editor's note: This story was originally published October 22, 2006. This is an except from a longer article that presented the views of the various candidates for governor.

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On Nov. 7, Alaskans will elect a new governor. To help voters compare the candidates, we asked each of them more than two dozen questions, in writing, on a range of Alaska issues. Today we're presenting their answers. Six candidates will be on the ballot.

Sarah Palin

Republican

Web site: www.palinforgovernor.com

Age: 42

Spouse: Todd Palin

Children: Track, Bristol, Willow and Piper

Occupation: Commercial fisherman, volunteer coach/manager

Education: Wasilla High School, 1982 graduate; University of Idaho, B.S. degree, journalism, 1987

Employment history: Media; utility; full-time mayor/administrator, 1996-2002; and commercial fisherman

Military service: None

Previous public offices held (include dates) and offices run for: Former mayor of Wasilla, Wasilla City Council, president of Alaska Conference of Mayors, Alaska Municipal League, Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, former chair of Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, 2002 candidate for lieutenant governor

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

1. How would your administration move forward on a natural gas pipeline? How does your plan compare with the proposal negotiated by the Murkowski administration?

All qualified and viable proposals will be considered. The Stranded Gas Development Act no longer applies. We will introduce a bill seeking a "law of general application." The bill will set forth key requirements, such as access to gas for Alaska communities, jobs for Alaskans, pre-construction benchmarks, expansion provisions, reasonable tariff structure and legislative approval. The bill will also set forth incentives to qualified applicants that guarantee quick commencement.

2. Do you believe the state should demand a firm construction start date for a gas line, despite the uncertainties of construction costs, permits and financing?

Yes. If the state is going to offer incentives - and award them to a specific proposal - it is reasonable to expect a firm start date. Otherwise, other proposals need to be given the opportunity to begin construction.

3. Do you support the natural gas reserves tax on the Nov. 7 ballot? If it passed, how would that affect your negotiations with the producers on a gas pipeline?

I am opposed. This initiative is akin to taxing income before it is even earned. The way to get an agreement on building a pipeline is to negotiate … not litigate.

4. Do you support the Petroleum Profits Tax passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Murkowski? If no, why not?

My preference was a tax on the gross price with a price-progressive index. We need to see how companies apply the tax credits within the law. If the credits are abused and Alaska is shortchanged, changes will be proposed. The intent of the credits is to encourage new exploration and infrastructure development.

5. Would you continue state funding for the proposed Knik Arm and Gravina Island bridges?

Yes. I would like to see Alaska's infrastructure projects built sooner rather than later. The window is now - while our congressional delegation is in a strong position to assist.

6. If Roe v. Wade were overturned and states could once again prohibit abortion, in your view, to what extent should abortion be prohibited in Alaska?

Under this hypothetical scenario, it would not be up to the governor to unilaterally ban anything. It would be up to the people of Alaska to discuss and decide how we would like our society to reflect our values.

7. Do you support or oppose the use of public funds for abortion (e.g., paying for abortion, promoting abortion, subsidizing organizations that provide or refer for abortion)?

I oppose the use of public funds for elective abortions.

8. Would you introduce - or, if introduced by a legislator, would you support - a bill to adopt the death penalty in Alaska? If yes, which crimes should it apply to?

If the Legislature were to pass a bill that established a death penalty on adults who murder children, I would sign it.

9. The state's pension fund for employees and teachers is $6.9 billion in the red. How would you propose to address that? Should any of the burden of increased payments fall on local taxpayers, through their municipal governments and school districts?

The state now has the responsibility to provide direct payments into the Public Employees' Retirement System/Teachers' Retirement System funds in order to make up the contributions that were shortchanged by previous governors. Gov. Murkowski is on the right track by proposing $500 million of the budget surplus as a deposit for next year. Future budget surpluses should be applied in similar fashion as a way of alleviating the burden on municipalities and school districts.

10. What role does state government have, if any, in addressing global warming and climate change?

We need to analyze the potential economic costs, needs and opportunities associated with climate change. Let's be cautious in how we react - to make sure we don't overreact. The Alaska Climate Impact Assessment Commission is supposed to assess the situation and issue a report on March 1, 2007. This is a good start.

11. Do you support an increase in state-funded, faith-based initiatives?

We see an adequate level of funding for faith-based initiatives today.

12. What, specifically, would you do to help make rural Alaska sustain itself economically?

I support a municipal revenue sharing so local areas can prioritize their own needs. The state needs to establish a rural energy plan that includes making the Power Cost Equalization endowment operational. Commercial fishing is a mainstay for many villages, and I oppose actions that cut off Alaskans from our fisheries.

13. This year saw the biggest wartime call-up of Alaska National Guard troops ever. Combined with deployments of active-duty forces, thousands of Alaskans are now serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere overseas. What's your view of the Iraq war, and do you support President Bush's "war on terror"?

I support President Bush's efforts to stop terrorism by taking the fight to the terrorists. In the Iraq war, I would like to see the president develop an exit strategy to get our troops home.

14. High oil prices led to an estimated $11 billion state budget this year, including a record $7.6 billion to operate state government. With continued high oil prices and the new oil-tax law, the state treasury could swell by billions more. What is your plan for spending this money if it materializes? Please be specific.

As governor, my fiscal policy begins with being fiscally conservative. During these times of budget surplus, it is irresponsible to promise new programs that can not be sustained over many years. Any budget surpluses will be managed as a part of a savings plan that prioritizes forward-funding education and paying down the unfunded liability of the PERS/TRS funds.

15. What would you do with the state's new jet?

I will figure out the best way to get rid of it.

16. Would you support amending the state constitution to allow private school vouchers?

My priorities are to support options for education as allowable within the current funding formula - including home schools, charter schools and vocational training. This doesn't require amending the constitution.

17. The biggest problem with public schools in Alaska is ________. How would you address that?

The impact of contribution rates to the PERS/TRS pensions. The unfunded liability is eating up funds that otherwise should be going into our classrooms and will hurt our ability to attract and retain good teachers. My plan to address the PERS/TRS shortfall includes using budget surpluses to accelerate the pay-down of that debt.

18. If the state finds itself squeezed for funds in the future, where would you look for more revenue?

Unlike my opponents' efforts in the past, I will not propose to take the people's dividends or impose an income tax. Given our current revenue projections, I will focus my administration toward developing our natural resources and establishing an agreement to build a gas pipeline.

19. Should the state consider using more Permanent Fund earnings to run government?

No.

20. Would you support state sales or income taxes under any circumstances?

I don't support state income taxes. There are circumstances where I could support a sales tax if applied seasonally.

21. Are there sectors of the Alaska economy that are under taxed or overtaxed? Which ones?

As a fiscal conservative, I'm not enamored with additional taxes on anything. I believe it's the governor's job to make sure the state gets a fair return on the development of our natural resources.

22. Do you support building a road from Juneau to Skagway?

Yes.

23. Does the oil industry in Alaska exercise undue influence over state natural resource, fiscal and environmental policy? If so, how would you specifically reduce the industry's role?

The oil industry exercises the maximum amount of influence it can. It's the responsibility of the governor to support and allow regulators within state agencies to do their job. I fault previous administrations for allowing any undue influence that has adversely affected Alaska's resource development opportunities.

24. The state has seen big growth of minority and immigrant populations, specifically Latinos, Southeast Asians, Asians and Pacific Islanders. What sort of outreach has your campaign done in these communities, and what have you learned about what these communities' specific needs?

I have reached out to all these communities and asked them to identify their needs. Their response has been for more vocational training, senior assistance, ending gang violence, and more state outreach and communication with their communities. One of the key components of my internal campaign is a diversity task force. I turn to them often.

25. Do you support federal offshore oil leases in the Bristol Bay region?

Over the next two years, the federal MMS will analyze the risks. It's important to work with the local communities in the region to explain what will happen under the process.

26. Do you support the proposed Pebble mine in Southwest Alaska as the project is now envisioned? If no, are there conditions the mine developers could take that would make the project acceptable?

As part of a Bristol Bay fishing family, I would not support any development that would endanger the most sensitive and productive fishery in the world.

27. The most important issue in this election is ____.

Selecting a governor with the integrity and ability to get our natural resources developed safely and expeditiously. Previous efforts have nudged the ball forward in regards to a gas line, but I sense a number of the players in this process are becoming discouraged because of the lack of an acceptable contract. It's time for a new approach with new energy.

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