Three incumbent senators, featured in an Anchorage Chamber of Commerce forum on Monday, as well as their challengers, would not say whether they’d join a bipartisan coalition next session. They all said it depends on just who is elected to the Alaska Senate.
Last session, a bipartisan coalition formed between ten Democrats and six Republicans. The Alaska Republican Party and Governor Sean Parnell are hoping voters this November will elect a solid Republican majority in both houses, so they can move quickly to lower oil and gas taxes, which they say is necessary to encourage more production.
“That was probably the biggest disappointment for me last session, was, we did not deal with oil taxes,” said Meyer, who is running in Senate District “L,” on the Lower Hillside. “This time, I want to organize with the group that wants to make our economy first.”
McGuire says she wants to reform legislation known as ACES, Alaska’s Clear and Equitable Share, which raised oil taxes during Governor Sarah Palin's administration. McGuire is running in Senate District “K,” which takes in neighborhoods in South Anchorage and Midtown. The South Anchorage senator faced an aggressive challenge in the primary from an opponent who attacked her for joining the bipartisan coalition, but McGuire told the Chamber the tax formula supported by the coalition is broken.
“We’re not attracting those great companies out there,” says McGuire. “So my first priority is to go back to Juneau to build on the work that we have, to pull people back into a room that share a philosophy that says that we can make oil and gas competitive in this state again.”
McGuire’s opponent, Democrat Roselynn Cacy, said the bipartisan coalition is already unraveling with the loss of two Republican incumbents in the primary, Linda Menard in the Mat Su Valley and Tom Wagoner in the Kenai Peninsula. But Cacy thanked McGuire for her work on the coalition, which she says has helped to bring revenue to the state.
While Democrat Bettye Davis would not commit to joining a coalition if re-elected next session, she defended the group of Democrats and Republicans who teamed up in the Senate.
“To say that everything bad happened on the Senate side is not true. And to say that we didn’t do good work would be false, because we did,” said Davis who is running in the District “M” race -- encompassing East Anchorage, which she has represented in the past, as well as Eagle River, which is completely new to Davis with a more conservative voter base.
Davis’ Republican opponent, Rep. Anna Fairclough, says, “ The current coalition, from the House’s perspective, has blocked many issues that are important to Alaskans.” Fairclough says she wouldn’t join the coalition as it exists today.
Education was another issue discussed at Monday’s forum. Davis says the state needs to add a pre-school program, while Cacy wants to do away the high school exit exam.
Fairclough, Meyer and McGuire all said state spending is too high and needs to be reigned-in.
On the subject of transportation, Davis says she wants to see more spending on the Anchorage Port, while her opponent, Fairclough, says the Glenn Highway and Knik Crossing need more attention.
Meyer’s opponent in the District “L” race, Democrat Jake Hale, did not attend Monday’s forum due to a prior family commitment.
The Anchorage Chamber will hold another forum next Monday, Oct. 15, highlighting four House races.