Republican voters in House District 9 will consider three familiar candidates when they go to the polls in Tuesday’s primary election. Incumbent George Rauscher will again face Jim Colver, a fellow Mat-Su resident who he beat in the 2016 primary, and Pam Goode, a Delta Junction-area resident who he faced in the general election, when she ran on the Constitution Party ticket.
District 9 stretches from Delta Junction south to Valdez and west to Palmer.
All three District 9 Republican candidates say if elected they’d continue cutting the state budget to reduce or eliminate the deficit, which the governor and lawmakers have been plugging annually since 2014 with more than 12 billion dollars from the state’s Constitutional Budget Reserve Fund. Their basic pitches include:
Rauscher: “After you’ve taken some of those reductions that are actually making the government more efficient, then you can start closing in on the deficit.”
Colver: “We’re sitting here, living off the productivity of the last 40 years. We’ve got to create new wealth and grow the economy.”
Goode: “They’re still going to have to cut the budget and live within their means, until oil prices recover or until they can do more resource development.”
In interviews last week, all three candidates said they’d boost state resource development revenues by cutting red tape and regulations.
Rauscher says he’d streamline the state’s permitting process to, for example, help Ahtna, the Glennallen-based regional Native corporation, develop its natural-gas reserves.
“We’re trying to create a permitting process that’s efficient, so we could actually get projects up and running soon,” he said.
Colver says he’d boost the economy by among other things promoting resource-development partnerships with Native corporations statewide. Like what the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, or AIDEA, did to help NANA develop a mine in its northwest Alaska region.
“Like Red Dog, where AIDEA financed the road and NANA was able to development the mine,” he said.
Goode favors downsizing the size and scope of state government so it can as she says live within its means. And she says if elected she’d fight to restore the full Permanent Fund dividend, which she says would go a long way toward reversing the harm caused by cuts in the size of the PFDs.
“By taking the PFDs out and cutting them, each and every year they’ve one billion dollars out of the state’s economy,” she said.
None of the three candidates could offer a comprehensive plan for state budget cuts they’d pursue, but all three offered examples. Like Rauscher’s proposal to cut funding for positions in state agencies that have been vacant for a year or more.
“Those equal 12-point-five million dollars just in one department alone,” he said.
Colver says he’d go after the agency with the biggest budget, the Department of Health and Social Services, starting with programs that require the state to provide a match of anywhere from 10 to 50 percent to obtain federal funding.
“We’re going to winnow down the state match to the federal grants to the bare minimum, to get the federal grants,” he said.
Goode says she’d roll back the state’s participation in the federal Medicaid expansion program. And she’d look carefully at the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.
“We’ve got some of the lowest grades in the country,” she said, “and we pay very large amounts per child in this state. And that needs to be addressed immediately.”
Goode says both of her opponents squandered opportunities to cut the state budget further. She says Colver supporting what she says were fiscally unsound budgets when he represented District 9 from 2015 to 2017. And she criticized Rauscher for supporting legislation that authorized the state to sell bonds to pay a billion dollars in tax credits owed to oil companies.
“The first place you always cut is the waste. And that’s the one thing we have not even addressed,” she said.
Colver assails Rauscher for failing to respond to a spike in crime. He says the incumbent should’ve supported SB 54, legislation that was intended to address problems created by SB 91, an earlier criminal-justice reform bill.
“I voted against SB 91,” he said. “I knew it was a bad bill, fought it every step of the way.”
Rauscher says he’s voted for measures that would’ve restored some of law-and-order provisions repealed by SB 91, but none passed. He says it’s a complex problem that legislators will have to address in the coming session.
“It’s not going to be easy,” he said. “It’s not a fast answer. There’s a lot of moving parts there.”
The winner of the Republican primary will go on to face Democratic District 9 candidate Bill Johnson in the November 6th general election.