Alaska’s two front-running GOP candidates to challenge incumbent Gov. Bill Walker took each other on during a Thursday debate broadcast on both KTVA and KTVA.com.

During the 90-minute discussion, including an hour of televised debate and 30 minutes shown exclusively online, former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and former state senator Mike Dunleavy addressed a variety of issues ranging from the state’s budget to health-care concerns for its citizens. The winner of Tuesday’s primary will face Walker, who is running as an independent, along with unopposed Democratic primary contender Mark Begich in November’s general election.

With oil prices hitting a 10-week low just before the debate, Dunleavy and Treadwell had similar answers when asked what that means for an Alaska under their watch. The price of oil is in constant fluctuation, the state needs to take a harder look at how money is spent in the budget, and no new taxes would be necessary.

“We can grow ourselves out of this predicament with the new oil finds that are close to the pipeline, that have been discovered the last couple of years,” Dunleavy said. “We can then continue to examine our (state funded) programs. Audit all of our divisions to make sure we have efficiencies within government... try to render out as much waste and fraud duplication and redundancy in state government. I think if we do this, we won't have to tax and we won't have to cut our [Permanent Fund dividend].”

Both candidates addressed a need to advance resource development. Treadwell explained that trust with oil companies needed to be restored.

"We've now had four years of lost drilling season because we didn't pay our bills. That's what I meant by bringing back trust,” Treadwell said, referencing his opening statement. “We also have to look at cost in government. The government is growing way, way too quickly. Our three biggest budget items include health and social services, education, and corrections. I want to make sure that we look at the outputs for what we're spending and to see what we need to keep doing."

 

Treadwell and Dunleavy seemed to agree that the best way to deal with fluctuating oil prices is to stop growing government, before instituting new taxes.

Liz Raines and Liz Thomas contributed information to this story.

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