Story last updated at 1:43 p.m. Thursday, August 22, 2002

All over but the voting

House candidates in the homestretch

Compiled by Mark Kelsey
Staff Writer

In preparation for Tuesday's primary election, the Homer News asked state House candidates Drew Scalzi, the incumbent, and challenger Paul Seaton to answer four questions and write a short personal statement. Their answers to the questions appear below. Their personal statements appear on page 5.

Drew Scalzi
Age: 50
Residence: Diamond Ridge/ Skyline area of Homer
Occupation: Commercial fisherman
Family: Wife (23 years), Barbara, two children, Lucas, 22, and Lacey, 20
Favorite movies: "Scent of a Woman," "Captains Courageous," "Itpis a Wonderful Life"
Service: Kenai Peninsula Road Service Board early mid- 80s; North Pacific Fisheries Association member/president late 80s mid-90s; Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly 1992-2000, president pi94-pi96; Gov. Knowles Fisheries Transition Team, pi92; Halibut/Sablefish Implementation team to the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, 1992-97; International Pacific Halibut Commissioner, 1998-present; Alaska House of Representatives 2000-present; various civic organizations.

Paul Seaton
Age: 57
Residence: Kachemak City
Occupation: Fisheries business and apartment rental owner
Family: Wife, Tina, daughter, Tawny, 23, son, Rand, 19.
Favorite movie: "War Games"
Service: Kachemak Bay Research Reserve Community Council; founding board member of Alaska Marine Conservation Council; Seward Harbor Commis-sion; Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association board member; Homer Foundation KLEPS fund adviser; Homer Little League board; West Coast Advisory Panel for the National Academy of Sciences; City of Homer, 2000 Fisheries Task Force.

Although he has withdrawn from the race, Pete Roberts will also appear on the ballot because he missed the state deadline for withdrawing.

What is the most important issue facing the state, and what should be done to address it?

  • Scalzi: The most im-portant issue fa-cing the state of Alaska is the same as many other states, which is the budget deficit. Most states would love to have our problem because we have a permanent fund worth some $23 billion. As I've demonstrated in the past both at the assembly level and in the Legislature, we need to balance our state budget with a broad base of new revenues while continuing to improve the efficiencies in government delivering the essential services cost-effectively.

  • Seaton: Narrowing the budget gap. Last session, the Senate wanted a budget cap to control spending, which the House would not consider. The House wanted to raise the entire billion-dollar shortfall by taxing individuals. Both approaches need to be used to close the gap, while including contributions from industry. I have proposed providing state services more efficiently by contracting services to the private sector (DOT, and Fish and Game research vessels). This is the only way to eliminate the levels of bureaucracy. I have also proposed: recalculating the oil production tax breaks ($70 million/year; cruise ship head tax ($30 m/yr); 10 percent flat rate state income tax on federal tax ($184 m/yr); and a foreign flag corporate tax ($10 m/yr).

    Despite a number of grants and an increase in the state funding formula, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, along with others around the state, continues to struggle financially. Is it realistic to expect a substantial increase in the funding formula, or are there other ways to address the problem?

  • Scalzi: It is realistic to expect some increase to the school funding formula, but the word substantial is in the eyes of the beholder. Teacher salaries make up most of the delivery costs in education. In a competitive environment with the Lower 48 for qualified personnel, we cannot fail to recognize the significance of creating competitive compensation, safe working environment and attractive place to live. We can and will bring the costs of delivery down throughout the state with more and better long-distance delivery services. The Virtual Classroom of shared curriculum will help greatly in that manner.

  • Seaton: Education is one of the constitutionally mandated functions of the state. Alaska's greatest resource is its children. We need to revise the formula to appropriately fund education by incorporating remote school cost-differential determinations and protecting it from inflation. We should move to a two-year budget so we can forward-fund education in order to avoid the political football that is played with the education budget each year. The huge capital project that the Legislature approved includes bonds that will require a $64 million budget cut every year for the next 20 years in order to repay the debt. Past legislators did not identify any source for this revenue. A state lottery endowing education could be a possible source for increased funding.

    Does the Board of Fisheries system work to the benefit of all user groups? If so, why? If not, what would you do to help fix it?

  • Scalzi: The Legislature has delegated the management and allocation of our fisheries resources to the Board of Fisheries. The current administration has chosen to seat the board, approved by the Legislature, with a direction that has steered away from the local biologist management to a more authoritative and political vent directed from the board. I believe we have made great strides in pointing out to the Legislature and the current gubernatorial candidates that this direction is not in the best interest of all user groups. I commend all members who offer to serve, and don't believe we need to radically alter the system. I have authored several pieces of legislation that "clarify" the board's roll, which I believe is necessary.

  • Seaton: The Board of Fisheries has a tough job with only seven members to consider every commercial, sport, and personal-use fishery in the state. The problems at the BoF mostly relate to salmon conflicts for the Cook Inlet area, and many board members are appointed based on expertise in that area alone. It is too much to ask people to serve in 100 days of such diverse meetings per year. We could split the board in two -- "salmon," and "other fisheries." This would allow greater board expertise for each industry -- crab, groundfish, etc, and more effectively represent the geographical diversity of the state while maintaining statewide coherence. Restricting agenda change requests to biological emergencies would also marginally help.

    What are your opponent's single best and worst ideas? Why?

  • Scalzi: My opponent's best idea is to change the requirement to allow fishermen to tender their own fish from the fishing grounds. I drafted legislation that will remedy that problem.

    My opponent's worst ideas are centered on an overall lack of vision needed to move the fishing industry forward. Chilean fish farms do not care one iota about protecting lifestyles. Changes to our harvesting, processing, marketing, quality and transporting standards are necessary to compete globally. No one likes change, for example, Paul fought IFQs all the way to the Supreme Court. The success of this management tool, however, is now touted worldwide and is a highly regarded model. While not a panacea for all fisheries, it took vision to incorporate needed changes. UFA and other fisheries groups that chose to endorse, support my candidacy. Paul opposed all but one proposal submitted by them, identifying only "negative" aspects of innovative ideas.

  • Seaton: Rep. Scalzi's best idea is to increase funding for education. We need to make corrections in the cost differential and everyone is awaiting the ongoing study results. However, the budget this year did not include any significant increase in the funding formula. I have proposed a two-year education budget to help de-politicize and inflation-proof the formula.

    Rep. Scalzi's worst idea is to balance the budget solely by taking approximately 1 billion dollars out of individual Alaskans' pockets, which would have a severe negative impact on our economy. In addition to a flat income tax, we need to provide state services more economically and spread the tax burden to industries, as well. Examples, as outlined above, include: a cruise ship head tax; recalculating the oil Economic Limit Factor; and a foreign flag corporate tax, none of which Rep. Scalzi supported.