2022 Alaska State Legislative Candidate Survey Results

The Alaska Travel Industry Association (ATIA), the state’s leading nonprofit organization for travel and tourism in Alaska, conducted a survey of state legislative candidates as part of an outreach effort for the November elections. ATIA emailed a 3 question survey to all 138 candidates on the ballot for the Alaska State Legislature. Candidates had two weeks to complete the survey between September 16 and 30. Responses were submitted through an online form. Below are the responses we received, in the order of the House or Senate district that candidates are running for. For more information about your district, please visit the Alaska Division of Elections website.

Question 1

Alaska’s tourism industry provides billions of dollars of economic activity and is on pace to recover from the devasting impacts of the past two years. With travelers returning to Alaska, visitor spending through various fees and taxes provides millions of dollars to city and borough budgets and the state’s general fund. Pre-pandemic, Alaska’s more than 2.4 million visitors (2019) spent $2.79 billion supporting communities and tourism businesses. Tourism promotion plays a key role in keeping Alaska top of mind for potential travelers. Alaska’s tourism businesses and communities rely on a strong and competitive statewide destination marketing program to reach travelers with the right messaging at the right time and at a scale that no one company or community can do on its own. Research shows when destinations do not invest in tourism promotion, they see reductions in visitation and visitor spending, along with market share. As destinations in the lower 48 continue to open and international restrictions ease, Alaska will be competing with destinations from around the world to capture that next traveler.

Question 2

Workforce development and affordable employee housing remain persistent challenges in the economic recovery for Alaska’s tourism businesses and many other sectors. The tourism industry though ATIA’s efforts, has partnered with tourism businesses, the University of Alaska system and the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development (DOLWD) to find ways to address these challenges. Additionally, ATIA has created a workforce recruitment campaign which has been shared digitally and on social media across Alaska and the Lower 48 states.

How would you work in the state legislature to support policies to improve access to affordable housing for residents, including Alaska’s hospitality and tourism workforce?

Question 3

Infrastructure in Alaska has challenges and opportunities. Funding for highways, road and bridge projects, scenic byways, access to rural areas and recreational resources benefits tourism businesses. The recent passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure (BIF) legislation will impact Alaska with significant investments in airports, ports, ferries, roads, bridges, rail, broadband, water and wastewater, energy and natural resources and tribal lands – all areas and important infrastructure which benefit and lead to a stronger and more resilient tourism industry.

Recognizing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework is federal legislation, what guidance would you give to Alaska’s tourism industry to be an effective voice in these discussions?

STATE HOUSE CANDIDATES

Rebecca Himschoot
House District 2 – Sitka / Petersburg / Yakutat

Question 1: As the pandemic recedes and recovery progresses I would support a greater investment in promoting tourism in Alaska. At the same time it is absolutely essential our state is ready to receive the numbers of visitors we recruit: Alaska must maintain a gold standard reputation for visitor experiences. Too much growth too fast could jeopardize our standing as a premier visitor destination.

Question 2: Looking to resort destinations in the Lower 48, Alaska can learn about important and viable investments in basic infrastructure to support the businesses that support our visitors. Ketchum, Idaho has built seasonal housing; providing funding for a public-private partnership in Alaska could result in similar much-needed summer seasonal housing with the possibility of the same housing reducing the pressure on communities for teachers in many locations.

For the broader question of affordable housing in Alaska, my hometown of Sitka has a model Community Land Trust that could be scaled up in other locations. While these are year-round homes, the availability of quality, year-round residences may open other housing for short term seasonal use. While each community’s housing needs are different, I am committed to providing state support to ease the crunch and stimulate the workforce and economy.

Question 3: Partnering with tribes and communities to ensure the needs of local people are met when considering projects that also benefit tourism businesses is a constructive way to help direct the BIF, much of which is being awarded with social equity in mind.

Andi Story
House District 3 – Mendenhall Valley / Haines / Skagway / Gustavus

Question 1: People love coming to Alaska. We are rated 7th highest among states as having the best outdoor economy. We must continue this interest with the state investing in higher marketing. We’ve done it in the past and it’s brought an excellent return on investments. To improve funding, educating fellow legislators is critical. I will offer higher investment numbers at budget time and work to get support. I encourage all members to educate their representatives.

Question 2: Public and private investments must work on this decades long problem in Alaska, especially heightened now with increase in short term rentals by homeowners. I support Alaska Housing Finance corporations efforts at all levels. Capital investments are needed. I am open to changes in housing codes. This is a problem that so effects are communities and businesses when looking to invest in Alaska. Creative housing efforts are happening; modulars, businesses using former military housing, businesses building employee housing, buying housing for employees. It’s all hands on deck needed to solve this problem. The state has a role with policies and Capital investments and working with municipalities and private businesses. I am open to all suggestions. It will take many initiatives and some are happening now.

Question 3: I suggest working with your municipalities and the Department of Transportation (DOT) in our State as they will be prioritizing projects in your communities. Most of the monies is channeled through DOT. Then, advocating to the legislators to include in our capital budgets key infrastructure that will not be covered through federal dollars, and is needed to compliment the visitor industry and our home communities.

Justin Ruffridge
House District 7 – Kenai / Soldotna

Question 1: Currently we have a variety of concerns surrounding the tourism industry. As a co-owner of a business in downtown Juneau I profoundly understand these issues. One of the major issues is that our infrastructure struggles under the pressures of the sheer number of people wanting to experience all that our State has to offer. I think we need to prioritize infrastructure investments in order to ensure that our tourists continue to make Alaska a place they want to return to multiple times. As far as spending to promote Alaska, I believe we can do some work in this. One way to increase funding could be by applying a state match for destinations around the State who wish to promote their unique locations. This could effectively double our dollars if partnered with spending done at the local level.

Question 2: Well again I co-own a business but this one is in Girdwood. This is a town that struggles mightily with workforce issues. One of the areas the legislature can improve access is through the access to land, as well as through funding directed through AHFC.

Question 3: Focus on workforce development. We will be competing with every other state for access to highly skilled workers. As mentioned earlier in this questionnaire ATIA has built great partnerships with the University and others around the state and this will be vital to being able to use these dollars effectively.

David Schaff
House District 9 – South Anchorage / Turnagain Arm / Whittier

Question 1: Intelligently increasing investment in tourism can lead to increased revenue. Comparing the amounts British Columbia and Hawaii spend must be balanced by the population each serves. British Columbia’s population is close to 68 million and Hawaii is close to 1 1/2 million. Alaska had 737,000 before the pandemic. However, it has been on the decline for a few years. Part of the reason for the decline is that public workers such as nurses, teachers, firefighters, police and troopers have lost substantial pensions and other defined benefits which has left the state and municipalities rushing to seek remedies for the rush from the state to find better jobs.

As you know Alaska is susceptible to the roller-coaster ride of oil prices as it is very dependent on the oil and gas industries. We need to diversity the number and types of industries that have an interest in Alaska. We can attract such diverse industries if we have sufficient investment in our schools, universities, etc. to make that feasible. The tourism industry is one of those alternative industries that presently operates in Alaska. As such, competitive statewide destination marketing is a necessity. Besides marketing, however, funds need to be made available for improvements to the communities so that they become more inviting to tourists. Anchorage, e.g., has far too many parking spaces taking up precious space that could be used to attract pedestrians to downtown and entice tourists to stay in the city rather than seeing it as just a jumping off point. Those types of investments can attract businesses and tourists to Alaska. Investments of that sort are part of what I advocate as long as we balance such funding to benefit the community as a whole.

Question 2: Affordable housing is a problem. Holtan Hills in Girdwood is one example. The residents in Girdwood are trying to have that development place some of the units aside for workers. Alyeska is allowing some units for workers, but only for those who work for the resort. For many of the housing problems, the issue is a municipality issue. However, at the State level, there are a few ways to influence the housing problem. One is to rewrite the insurance industry regulations to require insured housing projects to provide a percentage of units to be affordable to workers. As a legislature, I would be open to suggestions from the Alaskan community before attempting to address the affordable housing problem.

Question 3: To have an effective voice is to offer well thought out plans and positions on how effective your plan will be in addressing the problems and the method by which your plan can be implemented, including the impact your plan will have on the Alaskan economy in general.

Laddie Shaw
House District 9 – South Anchorage / Turnagain Arm / Whittier

Question 1: Alaska is in a competitive tourism market, and every dollar spent on marketing Alaska as a tourism destination pays high dividends to our economy. For that reason, I would support a higher tourism marketing appropriation.

Question 2: Alaska — and Anchorage in particular — is clearly suffering from a severe housing shortage, and this is particularly pronounced for affordable housing. It is a complicated problem and doesn’t have any easy answers — but we can’t ignore it. I’m glad to hear that ATIA is working to help find solutions, and I look forward to assisting however I can.

Question 3: The enormous impact of the tourism industry on Alaska’s economy is well-known, and ATIA is a very effective voice for industry members. I’d note that the types of projects mentioned in the question are not tourism industry-specific — which just underlines that what is good for tourism is good for Alaska in general, and vice versa. On the state level, I am not certain the extent to which BIF funding will pass through the legislature, but to the extent that it does, I will be very glad to hear from ATIA on areas of greatest need and impact. On the federal level, I would be happy to support ATIA’s efforts to engage with our delegation to help direct funding to its most beneficial uses.

Caroline Storm
House District 10 – Oceanview / Klatt

Question 1: I do not think that $5 million is adequate.
The adage is: It takes money to make money, and that is the case with tourism.
I have been involved with a very small tourist focused development in Sitka, and through my involvement with that project I have come to appreciate the need for activities and curated experiences for visitors. These activities can’t rely on individual promotion because tourists now have an expectation of coordinated promotional material.

I would advocate for and vote for increased funding to keep Alaska competitive.

Question 2: This seems antithetical to promoting tourism, yet we have to put a cap on AirBnB properties if we want to also have housing for employees. There are too many examples of communities that have let outside investors snap up real estate only for vacation rentals. This has crippled communities like Sitka.
The cost of building in Alaska is incredibly high, so developing initiatives for affordable employee/worker housing has to evaluated.

Question 3: The money earmarked for Alaska through BIF is in two buckets, as I understand it.
Some money is already directly allocated annually with increases annually over the next 5 years. Some money will only be available through competitive grant process.
The ATI can advocate for and partner with agencies to be more competitive in the grant application process, ensuring that the grant reviewers understand the breadth of the impact of the dollars requested.

Walter Tutiq Featherly
House District 11 – Lower Hillside

Question 1: I do not have sufficient information to evaluate whether Alaska’s current level of State investment ($5 million) is enough to keep us competitive in the marketplace in 2023 and beyond, but I am interested in learning more, and I am open to supporting a larger sum from the State of Alaska if warranted. Knowing that BC and Hawaii spend substantially more on their province-wide or state-wide destination marketing program is suggestive that Alaska should spend more to remain competitive, but those facts, alone, are not determinative of the question.

Question 2: A year ago June, former Alaska Congressman Don Young (deceased) announced his co-sponsorship of the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act (AHCIA), a bi-partisan bill that to strengthen an an incentive program that has created millions of homes for low-income households in Alaska and across the nation. The bill (H.R. 2573) would expand and strengthen the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program, including by raising the Housing Credit volume cap by 50 percent, lowering the bond financing threshold to 25 percent, and making other programmatic changes that would allow the Housing Credit to better serve hard-to-reach populations, streamline program rules, and preserve more affordable housing. In the Alaska legislature, I would work to urge Congress to pass this bill, and I would work to ensure that Alaska receive the maximum possible benefit from HR 2573.

Question 3: With the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), Alaska has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve its woefully deficient transportation, energy, and communication infrastructure. To take full advantage of the llJA, and to ensure that Alaska receives its full share of the funding, the Alaska legislature must appropriate sufficient matching funds and the Governor and the executive branch must set up the necessary offices, programs and personnel to apply for, distribute, and administer IIJA funding for projects in Alaska. Alaska’s tourism industry, which in many cases has first knowledge and information of the deficiencies in the State’s infrastructure, as well as the opportunities to increase economic activity and quality of life through infrastructure improvements, can play a valuable role in ensuring that the State legislature and executive branch each do their part. ATIA can perform this role by monitoring the legislature and the Governor’s administration and by providing information, insight, and analysis at the appropriate junctures.

Calvin Schrage
House District 12 – Far North Bicentennial Park

Question 1: With low oil prices and a lack of savings, Alaska finds itself with little ability to invest in those things which make our state competitive in the global market for tourism. This is unacceptable, and I strongly believe we must change course. I have been a vocal supporter of the framework put forward by the 2021 Fiscal Plan Working Group which, if passed by the legislature and signed into law, would generate new revenue and allow for us to once again begin making meaningful investments in our state, stabilize our economy, and attract visitors to Alaska in greater numbers.

Question 2: While the drivers of high housing costs are largely the result of municipal and borough policies, there are policies that the state can pursue to help lower the costs of housing. Two examples of positive legislation that would help promote affordable housing in which I sponsored (and passed with overwhelming support) are HB 411, which allows municipalities to provide tax and economic incentives to promote economic growth and development, and HB 402 which eliminates the requirement on contractors to include their name, mailing address, address of the contractor’s principal place of business, and contractor registration number in all advertising – instead allowing them to use a link to a landing page with this information, reducing advertising cost. I look forward to finding further opportunities to promote economic development and access to affordable housing.

Question 3: The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill will be the largest federal investment in Alaska’s infrastructure in my lifetime, creating many good paying jobs, bolstering our economy, and improving our infrastructure. I would advise ATIA and the tourism industry to stay heavily involved in this process, work with our state and federal government to stay on top of the latest news and guidance from the federal government, and be a vocal advocate for specific projects and proposals that would benefit our tourism industry.

Andy Josephson
House District 13 – Campbell

Question 1: As a member of the House Finance Committee (4 years), I am in a position to help you obtain greater assistance in the form of grants from the state. It is true, that between FY ’16-FY’21, there was wisdom in cutting our operating expenses. However, now with POMV, an increase in oil price, and the stabilization of our resources and funding, the state can afford to be more generous. If I am right, at one point in time, the state’s contribution approached $19 million per anum. We have those kinds of resources right now. We invest in competing industries and should invest in yours, too. Note that I have pushed for a comprehensive fiscal plan. Completion of the plan would get us off the roller-coaster ride and into something more predictable for your industry.

Question 2: We just seeded a fund for the Alaska Housing Trust. Now, we need to capitalize that fund as other states do. The state should also allow tax abatement plans for local governments to incentivize development of new housing, affordable at all income levels. I recently met with the Board of the Alaska Realtors. They shared, unsurprisingly, similar concerns. I gave them similar answers. I think additional public lands could also be made available for this purpose.

Question 3: I believe you need to be a vigilant advocate for your programs in Juneau. This can be done, through lobbying, but more importantly through engagement with legislators directly on your proposals for infrastructure development. Naturally, as a co-author of the bill, you will be in touch with Sen. Murkowski’s office, the Governor of Alaska, and our state departments of commerce and transportation. Some of the grants are competitive, of course, with other states. The bill will play-out over 5 years, to my understanding, and it’s clear that much of it was written with Alaska in mind (monies for AMHS, for instance). I stand ready to help your industry in any way that I can.

Alyse Galvin
House District 14 – Midtown Anchorage

Question 1: In brief, $5 million is not enough. The state needs to encourage visitors to Alaska to further increase the economic value of tourism to our state. Tourism is a growth industry for Alaska, and represents a tremendous economic opportunity that we must encourage. Also, as we are looking for ways to diversify our revenue, there is no doubt that visitors will be expected to share some of that burden. Therefore, increasing this funding will likely provide a strong return on that investment.

Question 2: Low-income housing is a critical need for Alaska at this time. It is needed not only to address the homeless crisis, but also for the education, healthcare, and tourism industries. I will support increasing low-income housing as a legislator.

Question 3: The tourism industry needs to participate in the public process to weigh in on what infrastructure will be most valuable to the tourism industry. We need to know what investment will be most effective at attracting more visitors and improving the experience of the visitors who come to Alaska. For example, what will keep us competitive with other destinations and highlight our unique features such as long-trails and cultural tourism; or what is the latest technology in cruise ship ports that will keep Alaska as a top cruise destination.

Jennie Armstrong
House District 16 – West Anchorage

Question 1: Investment in this sector benefits all Alaskans, even those only peripherally involved. Infrastructure improvements in pursuit of increasing access to the outdoors and recreational opportunities will make our state an even more appealing destination for visitors and will also make Alaska a more appealing place to stay for good. Reliance on a single industry holds Alaska back from an independent and innovative economy, and we are subject to boom and bust cycles that damage our state’s economic potential in the long term. We should focus on opportunities to invest burgeoning small businesses like small tour companies, bike touring and other projects all over Alaska. Investment in this sector of our economy also offers individual Alaskans opportunity for entrepreneurship, allowing for more small businesses and a more stable economy. Our current investment is not sufficient. As a legislator, I would advocate for additional funding in the entire tourism sector.

Question 2: Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), while not a panacea, are a great option for improving access to affordable housing.

I would love to see Alaska launch an ADU center and make it as easy as possible for homeowners to create affordable housing on their property. This is win-win for several reasons, including: 1. Affordable housing is crucial to a vibrant economy. It is best if people can live in the community where they work and are not priced out of that community. 2. With rising cost of living, it allows Alaskans to stay in Alaska and age in place by providing them with income throughout their retirement.

ADUs are a low-impact strategy for increasing our affordable housing supply. We can also consider offering different incentives for folks who build ADUs and agree to not use them for short-term vacation rentals.

Finally, it is our job to make the case for how developing land into different housing types is a net positive for the community and crucial for our sustainability. I am pro-development and excited to collaborate with folks on this issue.

Question 3: The tourism industry must be a fierce advocate for their needs and maintain frequent communication with our Congressional Delegation. They must also be in frequent communication with legislators at the state level and the gubernatorial administration. Some of these grants may require matching funds; ensuring those funds are included in the budget process is essential for achieving maximum opportunity offered. his will be the biggest injection of federal funds in decades; they should advocate for establishment and allocations for task forces, personnel, or other programs essential for ensuring we receive maximum funding and that these funds are appropriately allocated.

If elected, I would look forward to collaborating with the industry and assisting in future development.

Liz Vazquez
House District 16 – West Anchorage

Question 1: I would support and advocate for 20 million dollars, twice the amount currently spent.

Question 2: I need to do some research with regard what are the best practices. Affordable housing for workers in the Tourism industry should be a concern of the Legislature and other Governmental leadership.

Question 3: The Alaska Tourism Industry needs to advocate and fight for infrastructure that will benefit tourism. For example, our highways and roads need improvement in order to facilitate the travel of tourist to well known destinations.

Harriet Drummond
House District 17 – Downtown Anchorage

Question 1: Without knowing the relative numbers of visitors to British Columbia and Hawaii, I can’t really compare what Alaska’s effort should look like. On the other hand, $5 million doesn’t sound like enough for a state as vast as ours. I would work to improve funding coming from the state of Alaska, commensurate to revenues projected to come into our economy from visitors. I would like to learn more from the industry as to how much is generated in state and local taxes by visitors and how to balance that with increased support from the state. As you know we already have a huge revenue gap due to lower oil prices and production and we need to look at additional revenues in the form of a broad based tax that makes sense and that we can come to agreement on, in order to provide essential state services such as education, public safety and health.

Question 2: Interestingly the proliferation of short term rentals such as AirBnB is contributing to a shortage of affordable housing. A friend in Seward with several apartments can bring in $450 a night for a two bedroom unit in the vacation rentals market but can’t get that kind of return from the long term local lease. On the other hand she rents to students at AVTEC during the school term as the summer visitor trade cools. I find as I knock on doors of voters in my district that a surprising number of apartments and mother-in-law units are occupied by visitors here for a short visit.

It appears that only non-profits like NeighborWorks and Cook Inlet Housing in Anchorage are currently building affordable multi-unit housing that is full when it opens and has waiting lists immediately. I know that building permits are way down in Anchorage for housing. There are serious concerns from neighborhoods that AirBnB rentals will bring too much traffic into quiet residential areas and there is concern about allowing accessory dwelling units to be built in single family zoned areas.

I would work with local government planning departments to determine the best course of action and learn from them how the state can assist, and work to craft policy that improves access to affordable housing in areas that need it. I would also listen to what community councils are saying and incorporate their concerns and advice to draft workable policy.

There are serious shortages of housing in rural communities for teachers, public safety employees and health care workers as well as for full time residents. We really need to consider the needs in each community and industry and craft policy that works for all.

Question 3: Visitors benefit just as Alaskans do when our infrastructure is improved. I am grateful that so much support is coming from the federal government for our vast state with only 700,000 residents who couldn’t possibly pay for all this work. I have seen enormous improvements since I arrived in Anchorage in 1976 in our highways, for example, that make them safer for everyone. I’d like to see the Alaska Railroad extended to Fort Greely and Delta not only for military transport but also so that Delta area farmers can bring their products to market much more efficiently on the AKRR than in single or double trailer trucks on the Richardson Highway. This AKRR extension could provide great new areas for visitors to explore in comfort.

The Alaska Marine Highway will be well served by federal support for the next five years and we must replace the Tustumena as it is long overdue. Independent travelers love the ferries but Alaskans must have a reliable ferry system to move people and goods year round. No other state maintains a 3000+ mile system of ferry routes and it is a unique interstate highway system that merits federal support just like other states get for their interstate highways. I like to say that Alaska is one big small town with really long roads, some of which are wet and some of which are in the air.

I’ve seen cruise ships come and go now in Juneau for the last ten years since I live there during the legislative sessions and I have seen the impact on that town and also how Juneau welcomes visitors and provides infrastructure that is inviting and practical.

I am thrilled that broadband expansion is being supported throughout the state. Visitors expect decent broadband and cellular service but residents also require it to participate in the economy, communicate with friends and family, and obtain an education.

If the visitor industry can align its needs and wants with what residents require, we can all live more productive and comfortable lives in Alaska.

Zach Fields
House District 17 – Downtown Anchorage

Question 1: No I don’t think it’s sufficient. I’ve consistently supported travel industry funding and will continue to do so.

Question 2: Last session I was working with Sen. Von Imhof and Sen. Begich on a bill that would have established a Housing Trust Fund to expand housing development. This concept morphed into a $5 million appropriation to seed-fund a trust housed at the Community Foundation. It’s a small start, better than nothing I guess.
I also support looking at how the public sector can address issues like utilities and environmental remediation to expedite redevelopment in Downtown Anchorage, since those costs are often what prevent development from penciling out. Finally, I have supported and will support appropriations for housing for troopers, teachers, and other public servants. The lack of affordable housing affects all sectors and has a pernicious impact on economic development.

Question 3: We as a state should be a full partner with the federal delegation, federal agencies, localities seeking funds, and AML/AFN and their work to maximize BIF benefits. As Labor and Commerce co-chair last session, I tried to support this work with L&C hearings and by championing state match to capture those federal BIF funds. In terms of guidance to the industry, I think business leaders should be vocal in urging us (collectively–at state, local, federal level) to pursue and capture as much in federal funding as we can, and not just BIF funds but also Congressionally Designated Funding (aka earmarks), and in support of a robust state capital budget. Our infrastructure absolutely has an impact on our travel industry, and we should develop that infrastructure, from roads to trails to marine highway infrastructure to public use cabin networks.

Lyn Franks
House District 18 – Government Hill / JBER / Northeast Anchorage

Question 1: Tourism is and should be, part of the life’s blood for our state’s economy. Five million dollars is the minimum we should be spending. Further investment is vital.

Regenerative tourism (leaving things better than they were) can be a draw for further investments. This kind of tourism will help visitors to Alaska better understand indigenous values and the history of our great state. Regenerative tourism says, let’s make it better for future generations which, in turn, makes for a sustainable industry.

Question 2: As HD18 has had many personal constituent concerns relating to affordable housing for residents, this is a big priority for me and my staff. I believe continued communication with stakeholders, solid unbiased research from think tanks such as Sightline Institute, and an Alaska New Deal-type plan to use funding in smart and new ways can be a start. Dealing with local neighborhood NIMBYs, as well as finding solutions for our remote hospitality housing sites, will require time, attention, and many not-so-glamorous hours of tough, thoughtful work. I will do the work, make the calls, find the data points and work with stakeholders to forge a strong, smart path forward that puts Alaska at the forefront of the market where we belong.

Question 3: I have been so excited by the potential we have here, and speak to it every chance I get. With this once-in-a-generation opportunity we must be diligent and agile. I advise identifying stakeholders and allies who truly understand how revolutionary well-thought out and well-placed infrastructure development can be. It’s important to prioritize our highest immediate to long-range potential projects. We need to hear from as many impacted businesses as possible, continue uplifting their thoughts and ideas, and never stop working until we get this across the end zone. We have an opportunity to lead the nation in the use of these infrastructure funds. Folks in every Alaska state district need to know this. Every house and senate representative must be working on this. There is no time to waste.

Paul A. Bauer
House District 20 – U-Med

Question 1: No to first question. There was a time Alaska marketing was high on everyone’s list. It developed our third stool of an economic industry. Resource development and Federal government the others. However, Alaska, or least Anchorage must invest in landmarks, museums, and places for tourist entertainment and educational centers. We can bring them [tourist] but what to do other than look at a mountain and trees?
I guided for 3 seasons to tourist, it was educational, fun, and happy to oblige them.
In the end I would support and major increase for Alaska marketing. Propose and persuade my fellow legislators.

Question 2: Incentivize private industry, entrepreneurs, and open more land for development. Provide small business relief. Look into small (tiny home) areas for the seasonal hospitality and tourism workforce in proximity to job centers. Seasonal tax relief to low-budget hotels and motels for seasonal workers.

Question 3: Hire good public relations personal and lobbyist. The Alaska tourism industry are the experts with the data and marketing skills.

Andrew Gray
House District 20 – U-Med

Question 1: In the context of British Columbia and Hawaii spending over $35 million a piece, $5 million is insufficient, and I would support increased funding for to promote Alaskan tourism. I am sure that AITA has some data on the approximate return on investment the state would get from promoting tourism. That data would be very helpful in justifying increased spending on tourism promotion. I welcome further education from you AITA about this issue and the ways that you think the legislature can better support the state’s tourist industry.

Question 2: Affordable housing is the priority issue for my campaign. I am committed to working with my constituents, subject matter experts, municipalities, and all interested parties to incentivize more affordable housing construction throughout the state, prioritization of long-term rentals over short-term rentals, and increased investment in our critical housing organizations (which has been flat for the past 20+ years). Expanding the supply of housing will help our hospitality and tourism workforce just as much as it will help the rest of our population find affordable housing. I will lobby tirelessly to make housing a front and center issue in the upcoming legislative session. I welcome ideas that you may have about options that specifically would better serve the hospitality and tourism workforce.

Question 3: Alaska’s tourism industry needs to have a voice at the table with prioritizing the infrastructure that should get the most investment form the BIF legislation. If we have the opportunity to improve infrastructure in such a way that we can not only raise the quality of life for Alaskans but also improve the tourist experience, that information needs to be provided to the legislature so that we make sure to take this into account when allocating funds for various projects.

Forrest Wolfe
House District 21 – South Muldoon

Question 1: I would definitely be open to investing more in tourism. Having spent a large part of my life in industries directly related to tourism and increased visitor traffic, I know firsthand how important the tourism industry is to our state and local communities. More than any other industry tourism provides a wealth of opportunities for family-supporting small businesses, and we need to continue to grow this as much as possible.

Question 2: Open more land for development and the construction of new housing. I would seek to work closely with our construction and home building industries to find new and innovative was to expand housing in Alaska.

Question 3: Work closely with the congressional delegation to navigate the federal legislation to ensure your ideas are advance and your goals met. In the legislature we can work with your industry on passing resolutions that will send a strong state voice to congress expressing your sentiments, ideas, and goals as well.

Dan Saddler
House District 24 – North Eagle River / Chugiak

Question 1: I understand that money spent to advertise and promote Alaska as a tourism destination clearly benefits the state, and through tourism businesses, many of them Alaska-owned or staffed. I also understand that the State has previously spent significantly more than $5 million, which pales in comparison to your citations for BC and Hawaii’s spend (although one should be cautious of drawing apples-to-oranges comparisons. A more detailed look at all three region’s marketing would be instructive). As you well know, state spending on tourism marketing must compete with spending on Alaskans’ many other needs. I wish I could offer the simple answer to your question that the state should appropriate more GF money, but the state faces the prospect of a budget deficit t hat makes that a challenge. Analysis of the costs/benefits of state marketing spending will help inform my votes on funding decisions, as will the extent of the industry’s own spending on Alaska destination marketing, whether independently or in collaboration with state efforts. Seasonal sales tax in effect during tourist season could provide funds for increased state spending. If increased prices for out-of-state users of state-owned parks and other tourist facilities – or higher prices for value-added use of such facilities – passes legal and constitutional muster, that could be another source of increased marketing funding. I will remain open to suggestions and information from industry representatives on this issue.

Question 2: Several industry and interest groups, as well as many constituents, have raised concerns about “affordable housing” in Alaska – it is clearly an issue! The Legislature could help address the issue by making more state-owned land and building materials (i.e., timber, gravel, stone) available for residential housing of any kind; by reducing burdensome regulations and construction standard requirements that inflate the cost of new home construction; by supporting AHFC’s efforts, including innovations on current programs, to help Alaskans become home-owners; by resisting the impulse to impose state property taxes on residential homeowners; by continuing to encourage education and employment of Alaskans in the building trades to increase the construction workforce, increase competition, and lower building costs; and by maintaining or improving the transportation infrastructure that delivers building supplies from Outside at often shockingly high cost.

Question 3: As one of the pillars of Alaska’s economy — and one more dependent that most on reliable transportation services to deliver visitors/clients/customers — the tourism industry should be at the table to advise the State on how to to secure and spend federal infrastructure money. I’d advise industry representatives to study the federal infrastructure bill with an eye toward finding creative ways to identify eligible industry projects, and to draw legislators’ attention to such uses. I would of course advise ATIA leaders to meet with members of both Finance Committees, and with other legislators whose districts might be the site of federally-funded infrastructure projects. I would advise industry representatives to make the case for infrastructure spending that would support the visitor industry during the visitor season, and benefit resident Alaskans year-round. I would also hope you would have realistic plans on long-term maintenance and operations costs for federal infrastructure capital spending – M&O costs continue long after the ribbon-cuttings are completed! Finally — again respectfully asking ATIA and industry representatives to understand that a dollar can only be spent once and that other interests have their needs and desires as well – I would advise your industry to be prepared to provide evidence that might document how state money spent on your needs provides the best value for the state as a whole.

Lawrence D Wood
House District 25 – East Palmer, Springer Loop, Lazy Mt., Butte, Knik Rd.

Question 1: I would not do anything. I do not believe in subsidizing industry by other than regulatory reduction and improvement. Gov’t should get out of the way of the private sector and allow competition to determine whether or not a business survives or not.

Question 2: Access? All have equal access under the law.

Question 3: If you think the Biden Admin. intends to give Alaska 10 cents of those monies, dream on. The money can be pulled at any time for “higher priority” use. Meaning another state. Sen. Murkowski did Alaska no favors with her support of this bill. However, inflation will increase further, because of the amount of money printed.

David Eastman
House District 27 – Wasilla / Meadow Lakes

Question 1: I would like to explore the idea of assigning tax credits to entities that promote Alaska as a destination of choice.

Question 2: I have seen in my own district how, arguably well-intentioned, government policies have restricted access to affordable housing for seasonal workers in Talkeetna and other tourist destinations. They have resulted in an inability of local businesses to be able to recruit the staff needed to run a full operation. Rather than add further regulations and restrictions in an effort to counter the effects of the previous round of restrictions, restrictions on property rights, such as zoning, should be relaxed to allow market forces to better determine the most beneficial uses of available housing stock and property on which additional housing could be built.

Question 3: Alaska’s elected representatives at both the state and federal level will be prioritizing uses for these and other monies. Engage with our federal representatives and the current administration in DC. Here in Alaska, engage with the governor’s office and the sixty members of the Alaska Legislature. Legislators are often looking to be cheerleaders for investment projects that will build resilience into our state economy, I certainly am. If a particular project will have a connection to a legislator’s district that desire to be a cheerleader grows exponentially.

When you engage with elected representatives, it would be most helpful if you highlight those recommendations that stand to receive the greatest support from the public at large. As Alaskans, we’ve all observed government boondoggles, and it is fair to expect that a proposal for new government “investment” will be looked at critically until it can be shown that it is in fact a proposal for investment in Alaska’s economy, rather than simply another government spending project/boondoggle.

Doyle E. Holmes
House District 30 – Houston / Big Lake / Parks Highway

Question 1: No on the $5 million. Work to increase funding if ATIA submits a proposal. I served 11 years on the Mat-Su Boro Assembly and 3 years as deputy mayor. I added the first $100,000. as a grant in our budget and the Mat-Su Visitors Assocation was formed by Cindy Bettine. We continued to fund them each year and helped build the Mat-Su Visitors Center. Later we approved a bed to support the organization and tourism related facilities.

Proven record of support for tourism.

Question 2: I would be interested in the recommendations of ATIA’s and the state agencies above.

A no interest loan or 1% loan program established for tourism industry housing could be implemented.

Question 3: Make sure tourism infrastructure items identified by ATIA are part of the programs. Elect candidates like me that have a proven record of supporting the Alaska tourism industry. Alaska needs more pull outs with roadside bathroom facilities. Once in place the state needs to require DOT or Parks to maintain them.

Kelly Nash
House District 31 – Downtown Fairbanks

Question 1: I wouldn’t. It’s the free market. Each company knows how to advertise and with as much as it costs someone to either fly or take a cruise to Alaska they shouldn’t have to pay more for a service they can do themselves.
I feel these your companies exploit people that have had Alaska on their bucket list for years.
If we stop exploiting travelers we would get more. The large corporations have taken enough.

Question 2: The legislature can not make someone not make money. You either choose to live in Alaska and pay the prices or you move.

Question 3: I think the feds need to stay out of this state along with the corporations that do not have the best interest of the people.

Van Lawrence
House District 32 – East Fairbanks / Fort Wainwright

Question 1: The travel industry is an important part of our economy with great potential for growth. Investing more in industry organizations such as Explore Fairbanks and ATIA is a win/win for Alaska. Promoting Alaska small business visitor venues is especially important for growing our tourism industry. I would support increasing Alaska’s investment in tourism promotion.

I would support programs and policies to assist small tourism ventures with capacity building through business development training and upstart marketing assistance.

For large ventures in small communities, require employee housing to be built or otherwise provided as part of the project.

Question 2: The state needs to subsidize new housing by funding municipal property tax breaks to housing developers. The state should also subsidize upgrades to substandard housing. Creating affordable employee housing is an important part of tourism development. Additional efforts include promoting and subsidizing education in trade schools and
consideration for developing business licensing requirements which include housing employees, especially seasonal employees.

For large ventures (hotels, restaurants) employee housing to be built or otherwise provided as part of the project where possible.

Question 3: Help elect federal representatives who agree with these legislative priorities.

Partner with whomever is elected in November by helping them understand the various priorities in each region. Partner with tribal organizations and community leaders interested in developing local tourism opportunities to echo the same message to federal representatives. What is needed in Utqiagvik will not be the same as in Valdez or Ketchikan.

Ashley Carrick
House District 35 – College / Ester / Chena Ridge

Question 1: No- Alaska is not currently competitive in tourism marketing and our state needs to make further investments to support tourism marketing. During the past few years of budget constraints and global pandemic restrictions, the Legislature has cut the tourism marketing budget significantly. This action needs to be corrected as the industry continues to rebound.

As a fourth-generation, lifelong Alaskan with deep love and pride for our state, I truly believe that Alaska is the most beautiful place on earth. For many visitors, Alaska is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. However, Alaska needs to do a better job promoting itself. While the boom and bust, resource extraction-based economy will come and go, the beauty of Alaska will always exist and should be seen as a renewable resource that will benefit all future generations. Therefore, investing in tourism is a long term investment for the future of Alaska. I look forward to fighting for more funding for tourism marketing and the tourism industry, including in new opportunities and markets for tourism in Alaska.

Question 2: For the past five years, I have been working in the Legislature as Representative Wools Chief of Staff. That position involves going down to Juneau for legislative sessions and relocating temporarily throughout the year. Over the years, I have been appalled by the expense of housing in Juneau, with rates that increase in the late spring and early summer seasons as the tourism season ramps up for the year. The lack of affordable housing impacts Alaska’s workforce, including Alaska’s tourism workers. Alaska needs to invest in more affordable housing not only for its residents, but also for the seasonal tourism workers.

Affordable housing would allow for greater expansion of the tourism industry and would help support Alaska’s economic recovery in the coming years. I look forward to advocating for additional investment toward affordable housing across the state, and to seeking and strengthening partnerships in the public and private sector that can continue to support seasonal tourism workers as they travel to Alaska.

Question 3: It is imperative that the State of Alaska, including our communities and businesses, work to leverage as much federal money as possible with the billions of dollars poised to come into the state. While some of the Federal money is earmarked for special purposes and will not require appropriation by the Legislature, there are still significant monies which the Legislature will have the opportunity to leverage for investment in key industries impacting our state’s long-term future.

I look forward to supporting tourism industry developments as a member of the Alaska State House. To be most effective, the tourism industry and ATIA should take an active role in advocating for improvements and investments that will best help our tourism economy grow for the future. While continued recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is important, I also hope to keep an eye on the long-term future, encouraging investment in both Alaska’s traditional tourism ventures such as cruise ship tourism while also looking into new investments that can be made to increase our recreational economy. Projects like the Alaska Long Trail can offer potentially lucrative community and small business revenue and can contribute to a diversified state tourism industry. I will also advocate for the infrastructure and marketing that supports Alaska’s tourism development, including the creation of new housing for seasonal tourism workers, continued maintenance and upkeep of historical sites and preservation of tourism destinations, and additional investment in tourism marketing at the state level. A multi-faceted and long-term approach has the greatest potential for increasing revenue from the tourism industry in Alaska. While our state has many unique and longstanding budgetary and economic challenges, our tourism industry is a bright spot of economic opportunity that I hope to support and grow for our future.

Kevin McKinley
House District 35 – College / Ester / Chena Ridge

Question 1: Tourism is a multiplier and we as a State need to invest more if we expect to compete on a global level.

The current level is not adequate and would vote to increase it.

Question 2: I will work with my caucus and across the aisle to work on a plan to Include AIDEA and HUD to create more opportunities to build more housing.

Question 3: Getting stakeholders in front of our federal legislators to communicate to them how important tourism is to our economy and the growth potential it has.
ATIA is also a vital part of this process, and they should continue the work that they are doing.

Ruben McNeill Jr
House District 35 – College / Ester / Chena Ridge

Question 1: We need to start with cutting wasteful government spending and consolidating the savings from that into additional funding for sectors and industries that could net the greatest benefit. I believe this is the Travel and Tourism Industry. I believe that $5 million dollar is sorely inadequate for Alaska’s travel industry potential, but I also acknowledge that under our current spending levels and budget constraints it may not be possible. So, again, we must identify and rein in wasteful spending and consolidate to wiser investments.

Question 2: Support measures that help give every able-bodied man and woman who wants one a job. Cut government spending and make available funds to promote small business development by expanding low interest business loans that reward innovation and make products and services available to Alaskans. A prosperous, working man and woman can afford a home. Everybody wins.

Question 3: Be present and advocate for your industry. Bring innovative ideas that expand access and experiences to our beautiful state. Come with plans and details that can be reviewed and assessed for cost versus benefit such that legislators have the tools they need to budget responsibly.

STATE SENATE CANDIDATES

Andy Cizek
Senate District D – Kenai / Soldotna / Northern Kenai Peninsula

Question 1: Yes. I think five million is enough because alaska sells itself as the last frontier with its uniqueness and vastness. I believe we need to manage our resources better because it’s a well known fact that fish bring in people and all along our coasts as well as up our vast river systems we can see the results in mega tourists coming to catch the fish of alaska. Unfortunately the king salmon runs are dismal and closed to sport fishing or extremely regulated and have shut down months of tourism because there are no fish to be caught sport fishing in a number of rivers. Also unfortunately silver salmon are following in the way of the king salmon with many restrictions and no where near enough fish to be caught as was the case three to four decades ago. Another resource we continually need to manage better is our big game. So many people come to see the animals of alaska as well as to hike, explore, photograph and hunt. This all adds tremendously to the bottom line of the tourism industry and keeps it peaking year after year especially when they experience what they came to alaska for and then they spread the word to relatives, friends and neighbors with enthusiasm which exponentially grows future tourism on its own. Word of mouth is the most powerful advertising you can get. Alaska has multiple draws for people who want to come once or want to keep coming back year after year. Alaska is also well known and respected around the world with many foreigners coming every year as well as into the winter for northern lights viewing. I believe alaska has a reputation like no other. Hence the last frontier.

Question 2: I would turn it over to private companies by removing as much as you can from the government. Private industry out performs government in every aspect and can do the job way better for way less and still turn a profit. People are savvy and if given the proper chance to do what people do best by removing government rules and regulations, all the red tape that restricts private enterprise from doing what needs to be done to meet the demands of housing or any other shortages all the potential problems mentioned in the question will be solved. Unleashing the people to get the job done is the ultimate way to meet every demand and meet it well.

Question 3: Do your job and do it well with exceedingly great customer service so people will get and experience more then what they expected of what they came to alaska for. If this is done the state of alaska will bring in exponentially increased income for businesses, communities as well as the state by bringing in money for taxes in the form of licenses and fees not to mention the people buying supplies as well as transportation, lodging and food which will increase everyone’s financial position. When government realizes these further monetary increases they need to set apart these funds to match federal grants without burying us further in debt but rather spending wisely especially on the areas that produce more money then they consume. Thus you would have government working for the people instead of against it by keeping private enterprise from doing what it does best and most efficiently when not regulated to death. Getting rid of government restrictions is key to unleashing the potential of the people and private enterprise to make such a robust economy everyone wins. Unfortunately these are short answers as I got this survey with only hours to fill it out. Time is precious so thanks for reading my responses.

Roselynn Cacy
Senate District E – Oceanview, Klatt, South Anchorage / Turnagain Arm / Whittier

Question 1: Alaska has more income than the general fund. There are restricted income and expenses. If we view the budget more from a fund balance accounting perspective, we would look at all the income brought in by tourism both private and public (fees, taxes) and compare it to the expenses and investments that the State makes. The legislature would discuss with ATIA and others how to maximize the net income to the State.

Question 2: Alaska has been successful in financing home mortgages with programs such as the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC) and Cook Inlet Housing. Such groups should help the legislature to identify and finance the revitalization and maintenance of current housing stock.

Laws and regulations need to be streamlined so that they become relevant and understandable by consumers, industry, labor and local groups concerned about the habitat around them.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure funding needs to be applied for immediately. Water, sewage, energy sources, transportation, and other public projects could make housing more affordable. This includes the Ports of Alaska, Whittier, and Seward. If they have more damage and corrosion before they are upgraded, our houses will be even more expensive.

Question 3: Contact and participate in community councils to find out what infrastructure has already been identified as important to the community and support projects that would also benefit the tourism industry.

Follow the legislation; provide input and offer to assist in research, photos, and drafting projects that are important.

Cathy Giessel
Senate District E – Oceanview, Klatt, South Anchorage / Turnagain Arm / Whittier

Question 1: I think Tourism needs to keep repeating its success story – jobs for Alaskans (especially college and high school students), local businesses flourishing, travelers who return repeatedly (spending money).
The idea of spreading travelers into more rural Alaska sites is an intriguing one. My dad was a captain for Wien Airlines. Wien had a hotel in Kotezbue and I accompanied my CA-living aunt when she visited there. It was a great trip with full tour by Wien.
I think all policy makers and the Executive branch understands the value of tourism. There’s a sense that the state sells itself as a destination.

Question 2: Affordable housing is a challenge everywhere. Girdwood, in my district, has no housing for its teachers or firefighters. From my time volunteering at Brother Francis homeless shelter that the cost of housing pushes people into homelessness, even though they are employed.
Challenges that are out of our control: increased interest rates, supply chain barriers, declining skilled workforce.
Solutions: Continue to urge both training in trades and college educations; make sure that new road construction projects aren’t destroying low-cost housing that we already have; keep AHFC funded and on-mission.

Question 3: All infrastructure is used by tourism, both visitors and vendors. The best way to have a voice is to be at the table, with constant emphasis on the importance of all the infrastructure to Alaska’s economy, of which tourism is a significant part.
Its time-consuming but being present at any meetings related to infrastructure planning is important. If you aren’t at the table, you’re on the menu, as they say.

James Kaufman
Senate District F – Lower Hillside / Far North Bicentennial Park

Question 1: That dollar figure for AK is certainly low compared to BC and HI, but the real question is; what we should be doing, how do we assure that it is effective, what will it cost and how will we fund it?

I believe that we could look at what a comparative program would look like when the overall economic opportunities, market sizes, and respective tax structures of the three jurisdictions are compared.

There may be tax structures that are in place elsewhere that we could implement to provide sustainable revenue for this purpose using designated rather than general funds.

Question 2: I think that workforce recruitment and developmental vocational training programs are helpful, and that housing availability is a problem.

Access and availability of buildable land is one of the bigger hurdles in Alaska, but I believe that the state can help make property more available. There may be opportunity in repurposing land and buildings now held by states and municipalities that could be re-developed into housing/multi-use.

Once property is made available, the next question is how can we facilitate design, funding and build-out. I personally would not favor the creation of government housing, as I believe that the free market is the more efficient path, so that’s where I would look.

In summary, the legislature can help remove obstacles, free the private sector, and make opportunities more available.

Question 3: The infrastructure funding is a multi-year system of competitive grants. My advice to the industry would be to organize a task force to identify key industry needs as project concepts, rank the concepts critically according to benefit and likelihood of success, and then develop the highest priority concepts to the point that they are clearly presentable as being economically, technically and socially viable for funding. Work with key stakeholders at all levels, federal, state, local, to build consensus for the desired outcome.

Janice Park
Senate District F – Lower Hillside / Far North Bicentennial Park

Question 1: We should be spending more money especially on parks. Our parks should be clean and inviting. Many people who have forgotten travel two destinations outside the United States have been vacationing in Alaska. Our parks should be well-maintained. In addition, our roads should be well-maintained. I would like to see better response to potholes and other dangerous road conditions.

I believe we could make some increase in revenue with a seasonal sales tax and perhaps a small increase in bed and auto rental taxes.

I am particularly disappointed that the state could not find money to purchase the Fourth Avenue Theatre which would have been a great tourist destination. This was a terrible failure of imagination.

Question 2: We are beginning to have a large number of abandoned buildings that could be converted for housing. It is shameful that we have such a large number of houseless Alaskans on the street while buildings like the Golden Lion stand empty.

Other properties could be converted, but we also need an investment in new construction of affordable housing close to our economic centers.

Question 3: We have a great advantage with the new bipartisan infrastructure funds that are coming into the state. Much of this will undoubtedly go to rural Alaskan communities, However I believe Anchorage has to have a makeover downtown. Our current look of cheap trinket shops is not advantageous for tourism.

As I mentioned, failure to purchase and refurbish the Fourth Avenue Theatre was a loss not only as an historic preservation issue but as a tourist destination. I have traveled to many cities where historic movie houses have been converted as concert venues and for other gatherings. The Majestic Ventura Theater in California is an example of such a destination in a refurbished and vibrant downtown shopping area.

Elvi Gray-Jackson
Senate District G – Campbell / Spenard

Question 1: No. I would support an increase in funding during the next Legislative session.

Question 2: 1. Provide financial incentives to builders who agree to provide housing that is affordable.
2. Work with lenders to address interest rates especially for first-time buyers or those lacking credit records.
3. Support legislation that would provide a living wage for the hospitality and tourism workforce.

Question 3: Although the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework is federal legislation, the funding is being distributed to states and cities by way of pass-through grants. I would suggest that the industry be a voice a the table during both Senate and House Finance Committee meetings.

Mia Costello
Senate District H – Sand Lake / Campbell Lake / Anchorage Airport

Question 1: Thank you very much for this question! You may know that I have been a vocal advocate for increased tourism marketing funding since my first days in the legislature. For the four years I served on the House Finance Committee, I was in charge of the DCCED budget; during that time, I fought for and repeatedly won increases in tourism marketing funding — sometimes in the face of stiff opposition. I’m proud of that fact, but I know I couldn’t have done it without ATIA working right alongside me to effectively make the case for funding increases.

My legislative agenda, both in the House and the Senate, has been to grow and strengthen Alaska’s economy in every way possible. I don’t always like direct state investment in the economy — but for tourism marketing, I’m 100% on board. Few investments have such a strong return, or benefit so many enterprises.

Question 2: I’m very glad to hear that ATIA is getting involved in both the housing and workforce issues. I’ve been a steady advocate for improving both of those areas, and they have come up repeatedly during my tenure in the Senate, where I’ve chaired the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee. I would be glad to be of help to ATIA on these issues, please just let me know.

Question 3: Alaska is desperately in need of infrastructure investment by the federal government, and I very much hope that the BIF helps address that need significantly. As you mention, the BIF is federal legislation, but federal funds are sometimes structured in a way that allows for state appropriation (like some of the CARES Act funding). Even if that isn’t the case with the BIF, I certainly hope that the state will be included in these discussions. To the extent that we are, I will certainly want to hear the voice of the tourism industry.

It so happens that infrastructure projects which leads to a stronger tourism industry is almost always beneficial to all industries in the project area. Every project type that you cite in the question is a project that will help not just tourists and the tourism industry — they will help everyone. It underlines what I know to be true: the tourism industry is a good partner to the state and Alaskan industries, and tourism is good for Alaska.

Keep up the good work!

Löki Gale tobin
Senate District I – Downtown / Northeast Anchorage / JBER

Question 1: I was excited to see the recent $10.48 million dollar federal grant for increased tourism marketing in FY22, recognizing that even with additional state resources, this does not meet the requested $25 million ATIA has identified is needed. Clearly, there is room for strategic, increased investment in tourism marketing. Unfortunately, without a stable fiscal plan that diversifies state revenue streams and addresses the PFD question, I do not see a clear path forward. As I hope to be one of 60 legislators, it is up to the voters and groups like yours to help get the right people in the room to make the difficult, but much needed decisions to get the state on the best path forward.

Question 2: With housing costs soaring across Alaska, it’s critical the state work with our current housing authorities and partners to invest in strategic, equitable housing solutions that are accessible to every Alaskan. We must leverage the recent influx of federal funds directed at creating affordable teacher and public safety housing, as well as partner with private developers to reduce red tape and onerous permitting to help reduce building costs. In Anchorage, this means working with municipal and federal partners to streamline the permitting process for accessory dwelling units, expand the Downtown Opportunity Zone, revise Title 21, rezone to increase R3 & R4 lots, and reduce or remove parking minimums. Additionally, we must address deferred maintenance in our current affordable housing stock and leverage recent federal funds for weatherization to help keep operational costs down of our current affordable housing facilities.

Question 3: I recommend Alaska’s tourism industry encourage and work with the current municipal administrations, especially the Municipality of Anchorage, to ensure our state’s largest city is accessing and leveraging every federal dollar possible. It is unclear which federal infrastructure grants the Municipality of Anchorage has applied for and how the MOA is planning to match the state appropriation for the Port of Alaska Modernization Program. With a clear understanding of what projects are in the pipeline, representatives of Alaska’s tourism industry can advocate for additional resources to best maximize investments and improvements during the upcoming legislative session.

Forrest Dunbar
Senate District J – U-Med / Airport Heights / Mountain View

Question 1: No, I do not think that the current level of investment at the State is sufficient nor will it keep us competitive. In fact, Anchorage on its own now dedicates more resources to promoting the visitor industry through Visit Anchorage and our bed tax– a system that I have supported during my time on the Assembly. I am eager to work with the industry to find ways to increase this crucial funding for 2023 and beyond.

Question 2: The Anchorage Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) has made clear in its surveys of businesses that affordable housing is one of the most important factors in recruiting and retaining young professionals and their families. As it stands now, many companies, including those in the tourism industry, have a difficult time getting young professionals to remain in Anchorage because of the lack of quality available in the housing market at their price point.

Throughout my time on the Anchorage Assembly, I made affordable housing a top priority. We passed the Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance and Unit Lot Subdivision, land use plans and variances to allow additional density. I also served on the AEDC Housing Subcommittee, co-sponsored a microtrenching ordinance to promote affordable broadband, prevented certain additional, expensive additions to the latest round of building code, and successfully fought for funding for Cook Inlet Housing Authority in our latest ARPA distribution, to get more projects built and units online.

I will continue driving for policies that increase access to affordable housing in the State Senate. Several times during my work at the local level, discussing possible ordinances to make it easier to build housing, we have come across state laws that prevented us from taking action, particularly in the realm of tax incentives. I will be targeting those laws for change.

Finally, this year the Legislature established an Alaska Housing Trust, but a majority of the funding intended for the trust was vetoed by the governor. I will advocate for fully funding that trust and support its efforts for further housing construction. Ultimately, that is the only solution to a lack of affordable housing: increased supply. I have been a champion for building housing at the local level in Anchorage and I will continue to be in the State Legislature.

Question 3: Collaboration is going to be key. That is, our industry and political leaders must be speaking with one voice, and constantly in contact with each other to ensure that we are accessing all of the federal funds available. We need to be creative, innovative, and forward-looking.

During my time on the Assembly I served as a board member at the Anchorage Park Foundation. We work with private and public partners to improve our 50 miles of trails, 223 parks, and 82 playgrounds throughout the Municipality to make them more appealing to both Anchorage residents and visitors. We need to continue looking for federal funds to both improve this system and connect it more broadly to the Chugach front range and the rest of Alaska. This would give people options for adventure during the day, while still being able to enjoy the bars, restaurants, and shops when they return.

Anchorage and Alaska as a whole need to work in tandem; together, we can offer a wide variety of visitor experiences, from bus and cruise-ship tours, to high-end and “extreme” travel, to the “missing middle” of independent travelers. In the Senate, I’ll be a voice for Anchorage to State and Federal partners not only to seek grants and alternative funding sources, but also improve access to State Park lands and Federal Forests for recreation opportunities.

Finally, surveys have demonstrated that the #1 thing Anchorage’s visitors ask for is more experiences involving Alaska Native culture; Indigenous placemaking is both the right thing to do and the economically smart thing to do. Alaska should be a worldwide leader in cultural tourism. Partnering with Alaska Native organizations like the Alaska Native Heritage Center should strengthen our applications for federal funds, support those Indigenous groups in their missions, and play to one of our greatest comparative advantages over other travel destinations.

Geran Tarr
Senate District J – U-Med / Airport Heights / Mountain View

Question 1: We need a fiscal plan that represents a vision for our future and sets a plan of how to pay for it. We know what we are spending now on tourism marketing is not enough. At the same time we are under tremendous pressure to and must address constitutionally mandated spending on public safety and education that many Alaskans feel is inadequate. From my neighbors those items tend to rank higher on the list of priorities. With a fiscal plan it wouldn’t be an either/or scenario and we can plan for all of our necessary strategic investments. I have worked very hard to pass a fiscal plan and am proud that I sponsored an amendment this year with the blueprint for a fiscal plan, to include a 50-50 PF plan, $300-500 million of new revenue, continued work at budget reductions (no number attached), and a new spending plan, and that for the first time a bipartisan group of House members voted in favor of this blueprint.

I was following the conversation on self assessment very closely and now that has quieted down. I am open to other ideas.

I see tourism as a major part of our economy going forward and think we need to have a conversation about what that looks like and how to best invest our state dollars.

Question 2: We have a statewide housing shortage and it’s impacting all sectors of our economy and all communities, big and small. I have been looking into ways the legislature can be involved to address this crisis and two very immediate ways would be to increase funding to AHFC for the voucher programs that allow individuals to afford market rate housing as they work to achieve better financial circumstances and a second would be to reinstate a modified home energy rebate program.

With the first option, to increase the number of vouchers available, it supports building market rate housing rather than low income housing with the goal of market rate housing being affordable to more individuals. The vouchers are available for up to five years and allow individuals to have stable housing, a much more affordable option as compared to losing and finding housing.

The second option would be geared towards retrofits and remodels of existing housing stock that is unavailable at this time due to health and safety issues. These would be strategic investments on properties not already in a state of disrepair. The state investment would incentivize private builders to invest in less attractive properties and add value to our existing housing stock. This would likely only open dozens to hundreds of units, but can be done more quickly that new builds.

Finally, the state may also need to invest in sector specific housing, for example teacher and public safety housing, so we can attract good professionals to communities and have adequate housing.

Question 3: I have been impressed with the effort being made by Senator Murkowski to bring people together through forums to learn about how to access all of the different opportunities. I would recommend securing a role with her office and a direct line of communication for questions and assistance.

As a sector, it wold be good if you had a unified voice in support of projects and even a prioritization of those projects because that would be instructive to government leaders. It may be good to dedicate staff time to overseeing these opportunities and someone who could be available for collaborative conversations.

At the state level, we are often asked to write letters of support or pass resolutions of support for different projects. That is something that could be considered. The legislature can also hold hearings on different projects and opportunities. That would be coordinated through the different Committee Chair offices.

Bill Wielechowski
Senate District K – North, South Muldoon

Question 1: Alaska has world-class tourism potential and the State needs to work in partnership with the industry and small business community to ensure that this potential is met. The current state funding is not adequate and I have supported increased funding for tourism. I will continue to support funding to get the message out to the world about Alaska.

Question 2: Affordable housing is a growing problem all across Alaska. This past session I worked with non-profits and other legislators to appropriate $5 million in the budget to set up an affordable housing trust. This would have leveraged millions in private donations. While Gov. Dunleavy vetoed $4 million of that, I will continue to advocate for this.

Question 3: The tourism industry is a well-respected group that has been an effective voice over the years. I’d say to continue to speak with legislators and advocate on behalf of the many Alaskans who rely on tourism for their work.

Ken McCarty
Senate District L – Eagle River / Chugiak

Question 1: What has been the marketing investment of the State prior to COVID? What has been the repeat travelers or word of mouth influenced travelers in the past (pre-COVID). What change has happened in the travel industry in 2022 compared to 2020 and 2021, as well as compared to 2019? How can Alaska help travel industry entities in the state to be travel tourist ready before and when they come? I am hearing of a great need to help renew the travel infrastructure of business which have been effected from COVID and want to be ready for tourists. What are you hearing? How can we invest in Alaska so that tourists are not disappointed?

Question 2: Seasonal workers and housing is one issue of concern. What have we done in our state with the seasonal housing facilities? Have we availed too many AirB&B’s to the demise of seasonal housing or even yearly housing? What are the conditions or distractions of “company towns” that avail housing for workers? We have examples of the present and past but are we accessing them now for other venues?

Question 3: The infrastructure framework must have physical ramifications toward industry support outcomes. Rail, roads, docks, warehouses, communication, and workforce ready education are examples of physically tangible and measurable infrastructure. The tourism industry is a welcome stakeholder of the process.

Shelley Hughes
Senate District M – Palmer / Butte / Goose Bay / Gateway

Question 1: For state investment in annual tourism marketing, first we must get our fiscal house in order. We must ensure we can sustain the infrastructure and services tourists rely on when they visit. Settling the PFD is key to that equation as well as fixing the meaningless spending cap we presently have. I believe a rigorous, independent audit of all state spending is needed not just for efficiency but for alignment with the law – and revisiting outdated laws and programs to sunset them. I’m a proponent of a Sunset Audit Commission somewhat similar to what Texas has. As we are on the road to right-size our budget, we will be in a better position to consider an increase to the state’s contribution to tourism marketing. I’m not familiar with the match that ATIA’s members provide for marketing but would want to know more about that as we figure the best pathway forward. I would also like to know if Hawaii and BC benefit directly via taxes collected by the tourism in their respective state and province governments.

Question 2: Based on economics 101 and the age-old supply/demand principle, the more public land we can put into the private land category to be available for housing, the better. Both the state and the University have lands in Alaskan communities which have potential for housing development. I would support policies to assist with such land transfers. I would support partnerships between the University, the Dept of Labor & Workforce Development, and private tourism entities to focus on job training / internships that would feed into specific tourism industry jobs. Once we have robust statewide broadband, Alaskans in remote villages can even train up for positions. I support getting us to a place where we have a stable state fiscal environment that doesn’t overburden communities with taxes but fosters economic growth – this will promote safer, healthier, more vibrant and prosperous communities which in turn, by natural market forces, will result in more affordable housing for employees of tourism-related businesses as well as for workers in other industries.

Question 3: To be an effective voice, building relationships with the members of the House and Senate Finance Committees beginning in January as well as with the House and Senate Majority and Minority leadership teams is fundamental. Be in the room during relevant Labor & Commerce Committee and Finance Committees whenever possible. Submit written and provide verbal testimony. Follow-up with phone calls and visits to offices. Use data. Show historically the impact of state dollars. Keep your message simple: one-pagers are best (cite references for the curious lawmaker who wants to dig). Be sure to include information on how your members will have skin in the game. The state doesn’t provide dollars for infrastructure (or marketing) to the private sector medical industry in Alaska, the legal profession, the oil industry, etc. (well, some infrastructure for this: the haul road, etc.). Make the case why the SOA should step up for the tourism businesses and foot the bill more directly when it may not be for other industries.

Senator David Wilson
Senate District N – Wasilla / Meadow Lakes / Tanaina / Lakes

Question 1: I have advocated for more funds and would continue to if re-elected. At minimum is should be doubled.

Question 2: Last year we created a Housing Trust to look at ways and a fund affordable housing options across the state of Alaska. Also to continue to support the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation.

Question 3: To be prepared and looking at areas across the state where these funding could be used to increase access to new undeveloped areas. And to improve existing infrastructure to lower Capital cost of local municipalities.

Stephen Wright
Senate District N – Wasilla / Meadow Lakes / Tanaina / Lakes

Question 1: Sure, Alaska is the number one destination for cruise travel as it is cooler here than the lower 48 throughout the summer and the many options and ships are amazing. It is a supply and demand issue. Now that testing requirements are dropping and the cruise industry is filling ships headed to Alaska, I feel this trend will continue and the industry will be strong regardless of our investments. We have to strengthen our infrastructure and supply lines and provide the framework for continued investing in Alaska. We need a constitutional convention to rightsize bloated government. Industries like travel will continue to invest in our state as long as we build the resources to provide added value to those that live work and travel here.

Question 2: The knick arm bridge is the key to future growth along with completing our railway extension. Port Mac is a deep water port and it could facility land tours to South Central Alaska. This is not all there are many ways that we can strengthen and build Alaska toward the future. We must develop our resources and promote viable options for our private economy. We do Alaska resources better than any other place in the world and I would expect better opportunities leases and development to be in our near future. We must reduce regulations to bring back industries that will make Alaska Great Again.

Question 3: I would advise them to help us by encourage a constitutional convention unlike some industries facilitate only leftist ideology. We need private investments in tourism to flourish as we look to reduce federal regulations like the Jones Act which arbitrarily targets higher costs in Alaska. We need a level playing field in all industries and the ability to grow our resources and use them effectively. We are an oil based state and we will continue to invest in our resources in order to prosper and promote economic independence. Tourism will be strong as long as Alaskas resources are strong, shared and developed in a frame work that provides for a maximum benefit for the people of Alaska.

Doug Massie
Senate District O – Mat-Su / Valdez

Question 1: As a small business owner I see the trickle down economics and understand the value in investing more in our promotion of tourism in Alaska. 5 million dollars is a small investment in an industry that has a return of more that 2.79 billion as stated above. If elected I would explore ways to increase this funding, knowing that the return in our state economy is already in the billions of dollars and could potentially be much more.

Question 2: I have met with local contractors in my district which have expressed the same concerns about affordable housing. I am proud to say that I have been fully endorsed by the Mat-Su Homebuilders Association for my position on their issues, including affordable housing. I will support and promote legislation that encourages affordable housing for all Alaskans.

Question 3: I would encourage the industry to be at the forefront when it comes to identifying infastructure areas of need that would have a direct affect on the industry. One example I can think of personally is in Whittier, where there is so much potential for enhanced or increased tourism, but very little infastructure to support it.

Senator Mike Shower
Senate District O – Mat-Su / Valdez

Question 1: Honestly I don’t believe it is. From a business perspective we have to consider return on investment. We spend a small amount and get a large return – that’s wise. That’s what tourism brings us. I’ve been employed in the private sector for over 12 years in Alaska after my 24 years of military service. I’ve seen firsthand how much of an impact tourism has on our economy. I’ve also watched it be decimated by covid – and this was from the perspective of a legislator. I know we have to invest to grow and this is one of the 3 big income streams we depend on. Resource development, earnings from the permanent fund, and — tourism! I personally proposed a $10 million dollar addition to this years budget to increase ASMI funding (marketing our fish worldwide) for the EXACT same reason we need to do this for tourism – return on investment!!

Question 2: It’s simple – people who don’t have a place to live can’t do much else! People who have a home can focus on education, finding good employment, raise their families. Happy citizens are good citizens and part of that American dream and the happiness that can be found in it has ALWAYS been the dream and hope of owning your own home. There are a myriad of ways we can help but one of the key aspects would be eliminating government legislation, regulations and bureaucracy which hamper business development – and proposing legislation which would encourage economic growth – and a part of that growth would be affordable housing for Alaskans in all industries. I’m a free market proponent – get government out of the way and turn the private sector loose – they’ll make it happen!

Question 3: Alaska already has tremendous appeal to those seeking to visit the Last Frontier. But – we need to make sure they have an amazing trip so they want to come back and tell others to as well. We want to show off our state and part of that should be modern and functional infrastructure. Good roads, modern airports & port facilities go a long way to accomplishing this. In fact I, along with about 4 other key legislators, were responsible for striking a last minute deal on the senate floor adding well over half a BILLION dollars to the state’s capital infrastructure budget this year for this very reason – yes I believe in it that much! The specific focus of our additional funds were roads, airports and ports. The tourism industry must be a part of this discussion, you must tell us what we don’t know but need to know so we can effectively advocate for the funding and infrastructure you know will provide our best return for one of our key and essential sectors.

Scott Kawasaki
Senate District P – Downtown, East Fairbanks / Fort Wainwright

Question 1: The state revenue has never kept up with inflation or dented in to other state and local government support for this basic industry. The state could pursue a very basic formula based on market conditions and how many tourists are bought in by the previous year. While the state cannot commit without legislative approval-it’s still important for groups like ATIA to continue to fight for those approvals and show a multi-year plan for increasing visitorship.

Question 2: Fairbanks, Juneau and Anchorage especially have a housing crunch at the moment to find affordable and safe housing. I have been working with the Borough on housing the new military soldiers who are displacing residents once available apartments and homes in the area. The Fairbanks Neighborhood Housing and the Fairbanks Housing and Homelessness Coalition have also done work in the town. The State should work closely with the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation to ensure a regular supply of loans specifically for that type of housing and groups like the Interior Weatherization to make houses more efficient for residents and guest like we did after the last energy price spikes in 2008.

Question 3: The bipartisan infrastructure bill is really going to build legacy projects over a 10 year span. The visitor industry should work with partners in the industries like construction, transportation, communications and travel to ensure that they are working together for the greatest needs at the right moment. As you may know inflation is at an all time high and workers are in a premium demand in those industries. The Labor and Commerce Committee and Finance Committees in the Senate want to ensure that the money is useful but that the money isn’t simply squandered. The DOT will likely take the lead at the state level wish federal and local appropriators to select those best projects and the visitor industry needs a seat at that table.

Robert Myers
Senate District Q – North Pole / Badger / Steele Creek / Two Rivers / Eielson / Salcha

Question 1: I will have a hard time committing to more funding for anything until we fix our long-term fiscal situation.

Question 2: We need to look at ways that our government’s policies might be standing in the way of new construction. Can we reform zoning to create more space available for apartments and other multi-family housing? Is there permitting reform we can do that would made construction quicker and cheaper? Would splitting the property taxes for land and buildings and giving them different rates help spur construction in urban areas? I’d like to see us explore all of these questions.

Question 3: I believe that our best use of this money right now is to eliminate part of our deferred maintenance backlog. But some of this money could be used for projects that will grow our state. What we need is information on how much economic growth we can expect from particular projects so we can get the best bang for our buck.

Willy Keppel
Senate District S – Southwest Alaska

Question 1: Just by the amount they’re spending, tells me where people are headed to. Alaska sells itself. $5 million is ample from government.

Question 2: A young couple would of had close to $9 K with a full PFD, which is great start on a down payment for a starter home.
So I would work to help folks with building down payments or keeping current on rent or house payments by fighting for a full PFD.

Bigger government disproportionately uses lower and middle incomes people’s PFDs, so I’m going to fight for smaller government by downsizing and consolidation of School Districts and the University systems.

Question 3: Operate like you have to pay your own bills, cause government is undependable at best.

Marketing

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