District A hopeful woos oil industry; opponent vows to tax it

Posted: Sunday, October 17, 2004

David Landis, 40, is a self-described "independent" Democrat who wants to increase taxes on oil companies operating in Alaska.

Bert Stedman, 48, bills himself as the industry-friendly candidate in the District A Senate race.

Stedman supports new roads throughout Southeast Alaska, mineral development and more than doubling the allowable timber harvest in the Tongass National Forest.

"We need to work on improving the business climate in Southeast Alaska," said Stedman, a Sitka resident since 1969 who owns and operates Pioneer Capital Management, a financial firm.

Landis said it's time to end partisan bickering in the state Legislature and focus on healing the state budget without harming "vital" programs like the Longevity Bonus, which was eliminated in 2003.

Stedman is defending the Senate seat he has filled by gubernatorial appointment for the past 11 months. Landis is a Democrat and former Republican from Ketchikan, and self-styled nonpartisan reformer.

"I was prompted to switch parties (in 2004, before the election filing deadline) by missteps by the Republican Party of Alaska," Landis said.

Stedman tags Landis as an "environmentally backed" political outsider, saying some individuals contributing to Landis' campaign also support environmental causes.

Landis accuses Stedman of rolling over for big oil and supporting a raid of the Alaska Permanent Fund to pay for state government. He supports the Southeast Alaska timber industry, but declined to name a volume for the allowable Tongass harvest, saying he'd leave that to forestry experts.

Stedman was appointed to his seat by Gov. Frank Murkowski in November 2003 after Murkowski appointed Sen. Robin Taylor, R-Wrangell, to a high-level job at the state Department of Transportation.

Stedman feels Alaska can resolve its revenue problems by further budget cuts and passing a constitutional spending cap. Other measures include: developing natural resources, having business-friendly environmental regulations, and balancing the budget.

Stedman supports using a percent-of-market-value model that would change the way individual dividends are tallied and provide some funding from the Alaska Permanent Fund to state government - if Alaska voters support it in a ballot initiative, he said.

"It's a totally different thing than the a dividend split," Stedman said.

The percent-of-market-value plan, called POMV, would use 5 percent of the entire value of the fund to pay dividends and potentially help fund state government and municipalities. POMV garnered support in the waning hours of the last Alaska legislative session but ultimately failed in the Senate.

Stedman said he designed a POMV plan for Sitka's permanent fund and counts it as his greatest political accomplishment.

But Landis feels the permanent fund needs constitutional protection so it doesn't get slashed like the Longevity Bonus and municipal revenue sharing.

"If I'm elected, I will push to restore the Longevity Bonus," he said.

He noted that the state has a $850 million budget surplus for next year.

"If we can hold our spending to a minimum and only reinstitute programs like municipal revenue sharing and (the Longevity Bonus), we can put money back into the constitutional budget reserve. We don't need to raid the fund. We need reasonable restraint and we need to get our fair share of oil revenues," Landis said.

• Elizabeth Bluemink can be reached at elizabeth.bluemink@juneauempire.com.

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