At the Resource Development Council – Alaska Support Industry Alliance breakfast in Anchorage on Thursday, incoming Sen. Cathy Giessel and Sen. Click Bishop gave some of their thoughts on the upcoming session, as the featured speakers. The Legislature convenes on Jan. 17, and both Giessel and Bishop are part of the 17-member bipartisan majority in the 20-member Senate.
Giessel, who was briefly removed from office by her voters for two years, but who has now won back a seat in the Senate representing South Anchorage, spoke to these items:
- There need to be changes to teacher retirement pensions, in order to recruit and retain qualified teachers.
- The state should should also look at the retirement “hybrid plans” that have been proposed for public safety employees.
- There are three state departments on the verge of being nonfunctional due to inability to hire.
- The State should look at licensing requirements for private companies that are having trouble getting employees.
- Childcare is an issue.
- Energy: Hydrogen hub, hydro at Bradley Lake, Glacier Fork but it has to pencil out .
- Carbon credits: She’s not sure what Gov. Mike Dunleavy is proposing is real. They won’t fill the fiscal gap.
- Food security, livestock challenges.
- Fisheries, she said salmon are moving north.
- Caribou herds are decreasing. Fish and Game needs the funding.
- Mental health and homeless will cost money.
- Must bring the Permanent Fund dividend under control.
- There are better ways to help people who need assistance than the Permanent Fund dividend.
- The importance of protecting the Permanent Fund corpus.
- She doesn’t want the “percent of market value” five percent draw changed.
- She does not support taxes if there is a small enough dividend.
- She opposes new taxes in Alaska.
- There needs to be a rational approach to the dividend. She said people say the dividend can’t be touched but Alaska can’t afford that.
Sen. Click Bishop of Fairbanks made these points:
- Alaska’s budget is $1 billion underwater for revenue from spring to fall forecasts.
- The budget revenue projections is down $10 billion in both the Earnings Reserve Account and corpus.
- He quoted how much we’ve “sent out the door” with dividends.
- We need strong leadership for the state.
- He wants to pay cash for Dixon diversion hydro project on the Kenai.
- 20 percent more hydro power up the line is phase one.
- It cost $2.2 billion for a Wyoming nuclear plant but Susitna is $5.5 billion for less wattage.
- He wants to build the dam or a new plant on the Railbelt.
- He wants to use part of the dividend to pay for these projects.
- He said Alaska needs cheap energy, not affordable energy.
Outgoing Sen. Natasha von Imhof asked from the audience: What’s the process of reallocating some of the dividend in the governor’s budget to some of the projects you mentioned?
Giessel did not really answer but said there won’t be abortion or gay marriage legislation.
Bishop said he sits on a Taft Hartley Trust board and “if I managed that money like the state manages its money …”