Now that the legislative session has – finally! – ended, TongassDemocrats.com asked our Southeast delegation how things went.
This week, we share the responses we received from Rep. Sam Kito III (D – District 33). If you would like more information about Rep. Kito, you can visit his official page at the Alaska State Legislature, his website at the Alaska House Majority Coalition, or his Facebook page.
Let’s start with positives: What do you see as wins this year for Democrats and other progressives?
- Supported and passed K-12 education funding without reductions.
- Supported and passed pre-k funding.
- The Alaska State House passed a sustainable fiscal plan for Alaska, however, the plan was not given fair consideration in the State Senate.
- Passed a capital budget that keeps Alaskan construction crews working, limiting construction-related job losses.
The House came up with what looked like a solid plan for the State’s budget, but – no surprise – the Senate majority hated it. Can you help us understand the State’s fiscal plan as it exists right now?
We are moving towards a sustainable fiscal plan that will necessarily include a progressive, broad-based statewide tax, capping the Permanent Fund Dividend, and making sure that our state operating and capital budget provide stable and sustainable funding to provide state services to residents of Alaska.
What do you see as priority work for yourself between now and next session?
- By far, one of the most important issues for our region, and our state, is to provide stability for funding of the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS).
- Work to make sure funding is available to sustainably pay for the state forester in Haines.
- Encourage DOT to construct an Alaska Class Ferry compatible terminal in Skagway.
- Advocate and support funding for pre-k education in Alaska.
- Continue to work on the AMHS reform project.
- Continue to work with the Lt Governor on the Transboundary Mining working group.
The 2016 election activated a lot of people in politics, many for the first time. Is there anything that people can do to improve the chances of advancing a progressive agenda in next spring’s legislative session?
As with any election process, it will be critically important to impress upon the electorate, the importance of civic engagement. Voters need to understand the importance of the simple act of voting.
Last, what do you want people to know right now about your plan for Alaska’s future?
Along with the Alaska State House Majority, I believe the most important issue before the Legislature and Alaskans is addressing the fiscal situation that has resulted in spending of our savings to critically low levels.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Sam!
The views in this piece are those of the author. They are not official positions of TongassDemocrats.com or the Tongass Democrats.