Democratic Rep. Beth Kerttula said she should be re-elected to a fourth term because of her leadership position as a minority lawmaker and her ability to negotiate across party lines.
Kerttula is running for a fourth term as the representative for House District 3, representing downtown Juneau, Douglas and part of the Lemon Creek area. She faces Republican challenger Andrew Engstrom. She has more than tripled her opponent in campaign contributions, with $52,370.
Kerttula serves as minority whip for the House Democrats and said if her party wins three more seats in the Nov. 2 election, it will gain an additional seat on the House Finance Committee. Kerttula said her ability as a negotiator helped prevent an oil company merger in 1999, despite her position as a minority member.
"It would have been absolutely devastating to the oil industry in Alaska," she said of the proposed merger between oil companies BP and ARCO. "It's a monopoly situation that would have made it so there was only one buyer for our oil, which is really just the same as if there's only one seller."
Kerttula said the Democrats also leverage their votes strategically that are needed to tap the state's Constitutional Budget Reserve to balance the budget. She said this year in the Legislature the Democrats used their votes needed to balance the budget to increase K-12 education funding by $82 million.
"We got the first increase in almost a decade in education funding," she said.
Kerttula, 48, is the daughter of Jay Kerttula, a long-time representative from Palmer. She said she wants to return to the Legislature because: "It's a great job and I like working with people."
Kerttula said it is important that Democrats gain more power in the Legislature because of the control Republicans hold in the House, Senate and administration. She said it's important to have checks and balances.
"Our system right now in Alaska has no checks ..." she said.
She said the Republican majority has not been good for Juneau or the state because of controversial decisions such as cutting the Longevity Bonus program and moving ferry system administrators from Juneau to Ketchikan.
Kerttula said the state should review its oil tax structure to reap some of the benefits of high oil prices. She said she would like to see a change in oil taxation before considering instituting a statewide income tax. Alaska is losing millions of dollars in windfall profits, she said.
"An income tax won't bring anything near what $50 a barrel does," she said. "We could have rebuilt our education system on this money alone."
Kerttula opposed a change in the management structure of the Alaska Permanent Fund, switching it from a trust to an endowment. She said she supports the plan known as percent of market value, but did not vote for it because of plans to use some of the earnings for state government without protecting dividends.
"It's like pulling a thread out on one side and not watching the hole it's going to leave on the other," she said.
Kerttula has received endorsements from the Alaska Trollers Association, the Juneau Pro-Choice Coalition, the Teamsters and the United Fishermen of Alaska, among others.
Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at email@example.com.