Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, reluctantly voted for a $1,200 addition to this year's estimated $2,000 Alaska Permanent Fund dividend. She had hoped instead for a plan to target help to those with greater needs, as well as spending more money on developing renewable sources for a longer term solution.
"It's both too much and too little," she said. "Some people are going to need a whole lot more to pay their energy costs this year, and I would have liked to do more."
David Newman, Kerttula's opponent in the Aug. 26 Democratic primary, takes a stronger stand than Kerttula in favor of the cash payments.
Newman is challenging the five-term incumbent Kerttula, who also serves as the Democratic Party leader in the House of Representatives, for the nomination in House District 3. That district includes downtown Juneau and Douglas Island, and extends north through the Salmon Creek, Switzer Creek and Lemon Creek areas.
Newman said giving back state money at a time of citizen need was an easy call.
"I think people are hurting right now," he said. "It just cost me $100 to fill up my car the other day."
The best way to help people and share the state's wealth is to provide the cash payments, he said.
"The constitution says Alaska should use its resources for the maximum benefit of its citizens. There's no better way than to give it back to them," he said.
Kerttula also supported boosting the state's Power Cost Equalization program, which reduces the cost of expensive diesel-power in rural communities. Several million dollars were eventually added to the program, but not all the changes that were sought by advocates were made.
The PCE program doesn't affect Juneau, Anchorage or Fairbanks, but is considered important by residents of communities without hydropower or other cheap energy sources, such as Hoonah.
Kerttula said the state also needed to help out those people in neighboring communities that are suffering from extremely high electric rates this winter.
Newman said he did not know enough about the program to comment on it.
Both Newman and Kerttula supported Gov. Sarah Palin's nomination of TransCanada Corp. for a license to build a natural gas pipeline under the Alaska Gasoline Inducement Act. Kerttula led the fight for the gas pipeline in the House of Representatives, which Newman said he supported.
Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or firstname.lastname@example.org.