Wilson talks economy, ferry with Sitka Chamber


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Wilson told Chamber members on Wednesday that changes in the national economy tend to reach Alaska about two years after hitting the lower 48.


So I think in the next couple years we’re really going to be feeling it worse than we are right now,” she said. “And that’s where you guys can come in, because you guys are the business leaders of this community.  And the business leaders of this community have to help legislators and give them ideas of what they can do, as legislators, to help make it a better business environment for the state.”


Wilson is seeking her sixth term in the state House. The 2nd District she represents includes Sitka, Petersburg and Wrangell.  She says if re-elected, she will continue pushing for a transportation infrastructure fund that will help improve Southeast ferry service, among other state transit needs. Wilson is chairwoman of the transportation committee, but her attempt to establish the fund this session was thwarted.


“It got through the House, got it all the way through the Senate, and then it got stuck in the Finance Committee because the Finance Committee wanted to spend money on other things,” she said. “That bill is something I think this state needs and I think it’s something we really need to think about.”


The money for the transportation fund would come from Alaska’s fuel tax and vehicle registration fees.


In Southeast Alaska, it’s hard to talk about transportation without talking about the Alaska Marine Highway System. The ferry network is frequently a topic during political campaigns, especially in Sitka, which sees less frequent service than many other communities.


Democrat Reber Stein, who will face the winner of the GOP primary in the fall, peppered Wilson with questions about ferry service.


Stein asked Wilson where she stands on providing services to smaller communities in Southeast.


“The ferry system is our highway. We have to have it,” she said. “But we also have to be able to afford it, and before we start adding more places that the ferry is going to serve it would be nice to be able to get up to the service that we had at one time in the other areas. I’m not going to endorse going to New Island when Sitka isn’t being served. So I think we have to look at what we can afford. Are we going to keep spreading out and getting more service to more people or are we going to at least keep up the service that we have.”


Wilson and Samuelson will face off in Tuesday’s primary for the Republican nomination. The winner of that contest faces Stein in November’s general election.


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