Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Alaska’s opposing gubernatorial teams squared off in a forum sponsored by the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce yesterday. Incumbent Republican Sean Parnell and Lt. Governor Candidate Mead Treadwell and the Democratic team of Ethan Berkowitz and Diane Benson took turns responding to business related questions that spanned from resource development to education. Treadwell said a Parnell administration will make the state more attractive to business.
Democratic Lt. Governor candidate Diane Benson said she and Berkowitz have initiatives to jumpstart business, from corporate income tax cuts, to a proposal that lets Alaskans invest a portion of their permanent fund in a gas pipeline.
Berkowitz, a former Democratic leader in the State House tried to cast himself as more than a party line politician.
The gubernatorial teams both stressed the importance of stemming the decline of oil production. Parnell said that means being tough on some fronts and compromising on others.
Parnell said he’s open to several options for re-vamping the oil tax.
Berkowitz agreed oil taxation needs overhaul, but said a single system like the current ACES tax doesn’t foster development of all oil fields.
The candidates also answered questions about developing Alaska through education. Both expressed strong support for the University of Alaska, but offered different visions for achieving success. Parnell heralded the new incentive based scholarship program.
Parnell said similar scholarship programs have improved student performance in 20 plus other states. Berkowitz addressed the educational approach…saying the focus needs to shift away from standardization and move toward teaching kids to think critically and help them stay in school till graduation.
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