Hot Seats: Lance Pruitt and Harry Crawford for House District 27
Taking out the incumbents — six state lawmakers were knocked out of office during the August primary. One of the candidates in an East Anchorage House race hopes that trend continues in the general election.
“Hi there how are you? I think I’m doing well. My name is Harry Crawford and I’m running for the state House.”
It’s a phrase Crawford’s uttered many times before. The Democrat is running against Rep. Lance Pruitt for his old seat, a seat he held for 10 years. However, he said this race is much different.
“This could be 1986 all over again,” he said. “People are losing their jobs, people leaving the state and this is just the beginning. It could get much much deeper.”
Crawford said the stakes are high and the current lawmakers did nothing last session to help our state. He said there is one key to fixing the state’s budget crisis: “We need a fair oil tax. That’s where the money is in this state.”
Crawford’s biggest piece of the state’s deficit puzzle would come from big oil companies, although he said he does want to keep credits for smaller companies to stimulate new oil production. He’s open to some sort of tax on citizens and small cuts, if they make sense.
“Anytime that we can find efficiencies in government that make sense and still provide the services that we want, then sure, we should try and make government as efficient as we can,” he said, pointing out a few cuts he supports, like combining school districts and making sure state buildings are being run efficiently. “But let’s not make dumb cuts.”
Crawford is also open to an liquefied natural gas pipeline, although he thinks Gov. Bill Walker’s plan is too aggressive. Crawford said he wants to use infrastructure that we already have to get the natural gas down to Nikiski, then ship it to Japan and other overseas markets.
There’s one thing Crawford said should not be on the table.
“I’m not about to stand by and take permanent fund earnings,declare it a victory and call it a day,” he said.
It’s a view that his opponent agrees with.
“If you just start restructuring but you don’t have a conversation about how you’re going to control spending, then you don’t have the social contract to do it,” Pruitt said.
The Republican said the first thing that needs to happen is the state needs to get it’s spending under control. He said it’s something he wanted to do last session, but couldn’t.
“Basically we were getting extorted,” he explained. “People wanted us to spend more so that we could get out of there and close the budget gap.”
Pruitt pointed to a bill he sponsored last session to merge the Department of Commerce with another state department, House Bill 362. He said it’s just one of many things the state has to consider to fix what he calls their spending problem.
“Some people say, ‘what is the one thing you’re gonna cut to cut the deficit?’ And we can’t find one thing,” he said. “We’ve now got to manage the situation.”
The incumbent claims he’s just as frustrated with the outcome of last session as other Alaskans are, but refuses to buy into his opponent’s stormy outlook.
“That’s the thing that bugs me the most — people keep saying, ‘doom and gloom, doom and gloom,’” Pruitt said.
Pruitt’s puzzle looks like this: cuts first, before anything else. A piece that could fit in later is a sales tax.
Pruitt claims he’s polled his district, and that is the tax with the most support. He defends not restructuring the permanent fund last session again with this argument: he thinks it’s too big of a decision to make in just one year. He disagrees with the criticism he’s gotten from some that using the state’s savings isn’t a smart move. Puitt says it’s more prudent to use savings because the state is only making about 1 percent interest off the savings, while if the state uses money from the permanent fund, they’re losing 7 percent interest.
Both candidates are discussing different solutions to the budget crisis. However, only East Anchorage voters can decide which one they like the best.
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