Andi Story was tired of spending time in the Capitol, so she decided to do something that may have her spending much more time there.
Story, who has served on the Juneau School Board for the past 15 years, is the sole Democratic candidate for House District 34, and in a Friday interview with the Empire, she explained that she wants to switch jobs because the Legislature has failed to provide Alaska’s schools with stability.
“The cuts that we’ve been having, not only in Juneau but statewide, have really been impacting kids and their families and our future, frankly,” she said.
Her turning point came when lawmakers declined to increase the base-student allocation, the amount of money schools receive for each student. The Legislature adopted an alternative approach, one that increases student funding next year, but only on a one-time basis. The money disappears after 2019.
The thought of again going to the Capitol and sitting at a testifying table was a turnoff.
“I felt I really wanted to not be testifying again to the people around the table but to be at the table making decisions,” she said.
As a result of her choice, she finds herself in the Democratic primary election against independent candidate Rob Edwardson, former chief of staff to Rep. Justin Parish, D-Juneau. Whoever wins the primary will advance to a November general-election contest against Republican Jerry Nankervis, Juneau’s deputy mayor.
Story is a longtime Juneau resident married to engineer Mike Story. Together, they have three adult children, two of whom live in Juneau. Story holds a master’s degree in social work and her first job in Juneau was with Catholic Community Services.
As Story explained, she became interested in education issues because of those children. When they entered public schools, she joined parent groups and site councils. That progressed into a 2003 run for Juneau’s school board and re-election campaigns since.
She also helped found and operate Great Alaska Schools, a statewide nonpartisan organization devoted to lobbying on behalf of public education.
Story said her experience on the school board is a good fit for the work she would be asked to do in the Legislature. In particular, she pointed to her experience with Juneau’s schools budget.
“We need a balanced budget in a bipartisan way,” she said of the state situation, arguing that current funding levels mean state agencies, including the Department of Health and Social Services, are being underfunded.
The Empire has previously written about the Legislature’s deliberate underfunding of that agency.
In particular, Story said the state is underfunding its capital construction and renovation budget, which will have consequences for transportation and education.
Story said she isn’t ruling out any budget-fixing option and pointed out that Alaska’s gasoline tax is the lowest in the nation.
“We have to have a fiscal plan that balances the budget,” she said.
“(Senate Bill 26) doesn’t balance the budget,” she said, referring to this year’s legislation, which calls for a proportion of the Alaska Permanent Fund to be spent on general government services.
She said the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing states to tax internet sales does create a revenue option for Alaska.
With regard to the trans-Alaska natural gas pipeline, she said she doesn’t know if she would support additional funding. She needs more information.
“It’s hard to have an opinion on it because we don’t know who the players are going to be,” she said. “We don’t know how it’s going to affect Alaskans.”
If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, Story seems likely to support state-level protections for abortion rights.
“I support women’s rights to choose for their own health care,” she said.
With regard to crime, “I’d have to say that’s the No. 1 thing I’ve been hearing about,” Story said.
She believes the recent increase in crime happened because of a combination of factors including drug addiction, the statewide recession, and the Legislature’s failure to accompany Senate Bill 91 reforms with funding.
She said she supports reforms to the state’s retirement system as a way of attracting police to vacant positions.
“We need incentives to keep and attract police officers and teachers and state workers,” she said.
Asked about a Juneau road connection, Story said Juneau has “an equity problem.”
The cost of ferry service to individual passengers is so great that it becomes unaffordable for families or Alaskans on fixed incomes to travel easily between Juneau and other locations.
“I believe we can benefit by road access,” she said. “I believe that will help lower our cost of living and make more people available to see our beautiful land that we live on.”
From her experience lobbying in the Capitol, Story knows what legislative committee she’d like to serve on: “Finance,” she said with a small smile, acknowledging that freshman lawmakers don’t normally get seats on the budget-setting panel.
“I don’t know if they put freshman legislators on finance, but that’s where I’d love to be,” she said.
Story said she has the experience and passion to serve in the Legislature, and she hopes voters will give her that chance.
“I just feel that I’ve really devoted the last 15 years of my life to having quality public education, and I realize that for Alaska to move forward, we need to have people who have vision in our future,” she said.
• Contact reporter James Brooks at email@example.com or 523-2258.