The primary election for Juneau's state Senate seat Aug. 27 may be seen as a warm-up match between Democratic incumbent Sen. Kim Elton and Republican challenger Cathy Munoz. But the two already are campaigning hard for the Nov. 5 general election.
Munoz is in a slight lead in campaign contributions with $50,816 to Elton's $47,418.
Elton has served one term in the state Senate and two in the House, and is a former member of the Juneau Assembly and two-year executive director of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.
Elton pointed to his work on a city ordinance to increase the penalties for drunken driving with a 0.08 blood alcohol level, and on a measure setting height limits for buildings on the Juneau waterfront as two of his achievements on the Assembly.
Elton said his more recent efforts in effecting sound policy showed in his work on a long-term fiscal plan in the Legislature's fiscal policy task force.
"We shifted the debate inside the building and caused people outside to talk about the fiscal situation," Elton said.
Elton also stressed the work done by the Juneau delegation during the last legislative session to secure funding of projects such as a new Mendenhall Valley high school, construction of a joint University of Alaska Southeast recreation center and National Guard armory, renovation of Juneau harbors, and the Alaska Marine Highway and establishment of fast ferries.
Munoz was appointed to the Juneau Assembly in 1995 to fill a vacant seat and went on to serve two more terms. She was chairwoman of the Assembly's Finance Committee during the most recent budget process.
"We produced an excellent budget with a lot of cooperation with all of the departments working together," Munoz said.
In that budget cycle the city fully funded education, increased bus service, and the Treadwell skating arena, she said.
Munoz said she has a strong bipartisan philosophy and will bring to the Legislature her ability to work effectively with others. She cited her work in pushing the Valley high school bond issue, her collaboration with a trails work group that evaluated commercial use of recreational areas in Juneau, and her advocacy of safety for pedestrians as a few examples.
Munoz said she would take this same moderate approach in addressing the state's $1 billion fiscal gap, which is expected to exhaust the state's Constitutional Budget Reserve by 2004. She also plans to be fully involved in the bipartisan fiscal policy task force that was formed in the last session.
"There needs to be more collaboration between the legislative majority, the governor and the directors of departments," Munoz said.
Elton said he would continue with the work started by the fiscal policy task force, which recommended an income tax, use of the earnings from the permanent fund after inflation-proofing and paying dividends, a cruise ship head tax, and increases in the alcohol and motor fuel taxes. He said he does not support a sales tax.
Had the entire plan passed, some estimate the package would have generated between $800 million and $850 million, Elton said.
It is difficult to tell voters that it may be time to use the PFD or to impose statewide taxes, he said, "But people deserve to know if their economy is going to be a bug on the windshield."
Munoz said proposals that came out of the caucus in the most recent session should be brought back to the table in the next session for discussion.
An income tax is the most equitable solution to helping fill the fiscal gap, she said. Munoz added that she does not support a statewide sales tax or cruise ship head tax.
"I don't support a cruise ship head tax for the reason that I believe the local community should be able to assess passenger fees independently of the state, just like we do here in Juneau," she said.
Before the state dips into the earnings of the permanent fund, Munoz said it should go to a vote by the people and that she would like to see those funds directed toward education.
"I support an education endowment because such a large portion of our annual budget is education, between $700 million and $800 million of our annual budget," she said.
Munoz supports completion of the environmental impact statement for a proposed road out of Juneau as well as improved ferry service, but added that whether it's a road or improved ferry service or both, Juneau needs to improve transportation to the capital city.
Elton said ferry access is the way to go until there is more information on the road plan.
"Right now I think we ought to be focusing on improvements to the ferry system," he said, posing the questions: "How much is the winter maintenance going to cost? What's the toll going to be? What about avalanches?"