Candidates for the Juneau state Senate seat differed on issues such as the state fiscal gap and the local economy at a Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon Friday.
Democratic incumbent Kim Elton and Republican challenger Cathy Munoz are running unopposed in their respective parties in the Aug. 27 primary.
Elton has served four years each in the Juneau Assembly, the state House of Representatives and the state Senate. Munoz has served six and a half years on the Juneau Assembly and worked as finance chairwoman for the panel.
The candidates agreed that the city needs to move ahead in building an 18-hole golf course in Douglas, which has been delayed by a lengthy permitting process. But the two differed on solutions to the state's fiscal gap, the question of state jobs leaving Juneau for Anchorage, and building a road out of Juneau.
Munoz said she supports the opening of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil exploration, getting a gas line built and keeping taxes down. She said tapping into any part of the Alaska Permanent Fund to balance the state budget should be approved by the voters first.
Elton said the state needs to establish new revenues to fill the $1 billion fiscal gap that is expected to exhaust the state's budget reserve fund by 2004.
"We've got a $1 billion cliff," Elton said. "We can't cut our way out of this, and we need the kind of leaders in the Legislature and in the governor's mansion that are going to do something about it."
Elton said he would continue his work with the Legislature's fiscal policy caucus, which has proposed using part of the permanent fund earnings not dedicated to inflation-proofing or dividend payments, and instituting taxes on alcohol and personal income.
On the local economy, Elton said Juneau has become a regional center with Bartlett Regional Hospital, Douglas Island Pink and Chum hatchery, and other goods and services in the area bringing jobs.
"This is because we have a strong ferry system," Elton said. "It needs to be stronger."
That's one of the reasons Elton supports focusing on strengthening the ferry system as opposed to building a road out of Juneau, he said.
Munoz said she would push for an environmental impact statement on construction of the road. Munoz referred to herself as a moderate Republican and said she would bring her nonpartisan style to the Legislature to work with other lawmakers to give a strong voice.
"Abraham Lincoln said, 'A house divided against itself cannot stand,' " Munoz said. Because Juneau makes up about 5 percent of the state's population, Munoz said, "It makes sense to make that 5 percent count."
If elected, Munoz said she would work with the next administration to stop the "hemorrhaging" of state services away from Juneau. Referring to a Department of Labor study, she said hundreds of jobs have moved north to Anchorage under the Knowles administration.
Elton, however, said that a report by the Division of Personnel says Juneau has about the same number of jobs as it did 10 years ago. Many jobs are coming to Anchorage because the budget has been cut so much that jobs have moved from other parts of the state like Barrow, Dillingham, Bethel, and Kenai, Elton said.
Both candidates said they could work with either a Democratic or Republican administration and still achieve their goals, but Munoz took aim at Elton's legislative newsletter "Off the Record," saying it is "filled with partisan politics that alienates members of both parties."
Elton encouraged those attending the luncheon to visit his Web site and read the newsletter for themselves.
Elton's Web site is www.akdemocrats.org/Bios/Elton/sen_elton_1.htm.
Munoz' campaign Web site is www.cathymunoz.com.
Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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