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I've enjoyed working for you in the Legislature, and want to thank you for all your support as we've worked together for a better community. With your help and support, we can work together to expand opportunity for ALL Alaskans, not just those lucky enough to be born with privilege or into a stable family. I've voted to stop the damaging cuts in our schools, and to reverse them. With your support I will keep working for quality voluntary pre-k, which studies show improve opportunity and performance, especially for children from low income families with parents who both work.
I believe in a fair, balanced, comprehensive fiscal plan, because spending our almost depleted savings isn't a plan. I'll work to get around those legislators who say we can't raise needed revenue until we "cut school" funding even more - which is a recipe for cheating the next generation out of cowardice, and out of an irrational refusal to do the right thing. We can't destroy our university, schools, senior assistance, and basic services if we want jobs, and opportunity and dignity for this and the next generation. I'll keep voting to cut waste, but not to cut opportunity, or to create a recession.
I worked for and succeeded in getting needed help to Alaska's 2,900 foster youth, many of whom bounce between foster homes when we should be placing them in permanent, loving homes where they can thrive. It's cheaper to help them thrive than it is to continue the high foster youth incarceration rate, and pay for 40% of foster youth to end up homeless or couch surfing at some point in their lives after they leave foster care. Success is less costly, and more humane, than sending youth to prison and onto welfare. I'm glad the Governor signed our legislation into law.
We have to be smart with our budget so we can build this state, not put it into recession.
That means funding opportunity, job training, and standing up for public safety and seniors and children. It means not wasting money on non-priority megaprojects. It means getting a fair share for our oil, and replacing an oil tax giveaway that gives oil companies $500 million in the next two years more than we receive in oil production taxes.
It means passing Medicaid Expansion and Reform - to protect Alaskans, create jobs and protect the budget. The Medicaid Expansion and Reform Bill blocked from a vote by some GOP leaders would have saved the state $330 million in state spending over the next 6 years. The savings would come by reforms and rules that require the federal government to pay for costs the state now pays. And that bill would produce 4,000 needed jobs when Alaska is facing the risk of a long-term recession.
Alaska is facing a major budget deficit. I've voted to stop mega projects we can't afford so we can afford quality schools, give people opportunity, and treat our seniors and Alaskans with physical and mental challenges with dignity.
A gas pipeline that serves Alaskans with needed affordable natural gas, and that earns us needed export revenue makes sense for the economy, jobs, and to help with our budget gap.
I've voted against a Knik Arm Bridge that, with connecting roads, will cost Alaska roughly $2 billion or more; voted against a $6 billion Susitna Dam that will not be needed if we can build a gasline; and don't support a $600 million Juneau road extension that still requires people to take a ferry, and that will cost millions in road maintenance as it will traverse through 30+ high risk avalanche areas.
I've voted against unwise corporate subsidies, and voted, instead, for low interest loans to companies that need help instead of tens of millions of dollars in cash payments from the state general fund.
I've co-written bi-partisan legislation to make more vibrant communities, allowing Alaska's housing authority to build and finance housing that also includes businesses and non-profits like grocery stores, restaurants and doctors offices. Until that bill passed the state's housing authority was barred from doing that.
I wrote legislation that was added, as an amendment, to protect veterans with combat-related PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injuries.
We can protect Alaska's fishing streams (I passed legislation pushing to protect Alaska's public fishing access in 2012), our outdoors, and promote economic development as we have on the past. But there's a new move in recent years to trade wild fishing streams for irresponsible development. That's poor policy, and the Pebble and Chuitna Mine (which would dredge 11 miles of salmon stream and not "restore" it for 30 years) concern me.
We need to enhance our economy with expanded, smart renewable energy production in urban and rural Alaska, and expand Alaska's natural gas production so the most energy-rich state in the nation doesn't face an energy shortage.
I wrote and passed legislation to require that all state buildings and schools be built to cost effective energy efficiency standards, and succeeded in pushing for an additional $50 million to Alaska's Renewable Energy Fund during the 2008 Special Session, which I co-sponsored and successfully voted to renew. Money should never be a barrier to college, job training or opportunity. Today too few Alaskans attend college and get needed job training - our college graduation numbers are the worst or second worst per capita in the nation, depending on which survey you look at. I worked to help re-write the Governor's so-called "merit" scholarship - which left out rural students who go to schools that don't offer the courses needed to qualify; and bright, driven youth who earned their GED while in a broken family. We have added needs-based aid for those who can't afford college and job training - something I've fought for since I've been in the Legislature. I've pushed my and others' legislation to reduce Alaska's crippling 6+% student loan rate, which is almost 3 times what you can get a used car loan for.
With your help, I'll keep working for fairness and opportunity for all, and for a vibrant future for this and the next generation.
PS - As always, just call or write (250-0106; email@example.com) if you'd like to share questions, thoughts or concerns.