Three of the candidates hoping to become the Republican nominee for the governor’s race shared their views at a joint Kenai-Soldotna Chamber of Commerce forum Wednesday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
Former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, former Mat-Su state Sen. Mike Dunleavy and Michael Sheldon shared their views on the state budget, economy, crime, fisheries and many other issues.
Sheldon is from Petersburg and has worked as a welder, logger, commercial fisherman and handyman. He says he will prioritize building infrastructure and be a warrior for the state.
“I’m a Tlingit, and the Tlingits were warriors,” Sheldon said. “Did you know that we traveled all the way down to California to fight with other tribal governments? I’m not a marshmallow, I’m a warrior. I’m going to fight for the state.”
Treadwell shook up the Republican ticket with his late entry into the race. He wants to bring his experience in business and politics to work for Alaska.
"If you’re going to hire a CEO of a $9 billion enterprise, hire somebody who knows how to make business work,” Treadwell said. “And that’s not just the record, the comparison that we’re talking about, it’s what does the record mean to you? I’ve created things out of nothing and I’ve done it by bringing people together to make things happen, and that’s what I’ll do as your governor.”
Dunleavy resigned his Senate seat in January to focus on his gubernatorial bid. Under his leadership, he thinks Alaska can grow itself out of its current fiscal woes.
“The last four years have been some of the most dismal in Alaska’s history — crime rate, educational outcomes, unemployment, you name it. We didn’t run out of resources, we ran out of good leadership and good ideas,” Dunleavy said. “Get better management, get better leadership, better policies, put our resources to work and Alaska will be back on track.”
Dunleavy said the state’s operating budget needs to be contained to 2 percent growth and that Alaska needs to be friendlier to investment.
“Making sure your operating budget’s boxed in, shortening the timeline of the regulatory and permitting processes and sending the message through a governor that is pro-business that this place is open for business and we’re not going to prey upon on new industries coming to the state of Alaska,” he said.
Treadwell said the operating budget needs several hundred million dollars in cuts and that the state is not getting good enough returns in the areas of education, corrections and health. He said the state has to keep its commitments to investors and stop exporting jobs.
“We have to do that with value added. We can export logs but we should be exporting furniture or fiberboard, we have fish going to China for secondary processing that ought to be done here. We’ve got to be hell on people who want to export jobs from Alaska,” Treadwell said.
Sheldon thinks the state’s operating budget needs a 10 percent trim, with each department participating — including administration. He said privatization is the way to spur economic development.
“We need to get more businesses in the private sector. We only have 1 percent in the private sector of Alaska, Texas has got 99. We only have one refinery, Texas has 30. We need to start learning how to start operating our state properly,” Sheldon said.
On the Alaska Permanent Fund, Dunleavy and Sheldon think cutting the dividend was a bad idea, while Treadwell supports a Percent of Market Value approach that would free up a portion of the fund’s earnings for the budget to avoid instituting taxes.
All three say they oppose state sales or property taxes. They also agree on a need to increase the capital budget.
Sheldon thinks there should be a $935 million infrastructure budget and suggests building refineries on Native land to reduce governmental red tape.
Dunleavy wants to see a minimum $200 million in capital projects, made possible by controlling the operating budget so more money can go to infrastructure.
“We have to have a continual exploration and development process here in the state for new oil finds, new mining claims, etc. We have to be a partner in that. The way you’re going to do that is ramp down that operating budget, contain it, then you’ll have a capital budget to grow Alaska,” Dunleavy said.
Treadwell wants to see at least $500 million a year in capital projects.
“I’ll grow the capital budget by, one, recycling capital. We have projects the state has paid for that others now will buy from us. The state may have been in it to get it started. The second thing is I will look for more public-private partnerships. And the third thing is we will grow the capital budget at the state and match federal funds and do more.”
The primary election is Aug. 21. Also on the Republican ticket are Darin Colbry, of Anchorage, Thomas Gordon, of Wasilla, Gerald Heikes, of Palmer, and Merica Hlatcu, of Anchorage.