Commentary

Thomas: ‘I’ve delivered’ during 8 years in House

Rep. Bill Thomas

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I’m running for House District 34 because I’ve raised my family here and I want my children and grandchildren to have opportunities to live and work here. Like you, I’ve had many jobs in my lifetime to support my family.

In my eight years in the legislature, I’ve listened to what my constituents needed and I’ve delivered. There was and still is a great need for basic infrastructure throughout the district.

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Many of us choose to live in the district because we love the rural lifestyle. You know, public radio is an important part of our rural lifestyle. Over 20 some years ago, I was the first chairman of KHNS radio. That stands for Klukwan, Haines and Skagway. I helped start public radio in Haines then, and today I’ve helped by increasing funding to public radio in the state operating budget several times.

One of the most basic functions of government is providing the opportunity for a good education. According to the non-partisan Legislative Finance Division, the state’s investment in our education formula programs for K-12 has out-paced inflation during my eight years in office.

In 2012, our state investment in K-12 was $1.48 billion, up 88 percent since 2004. In fact, education funding is so important, it is the only state budget item that is forward funded one year in advance.

This past legislative session the House Finance Committee’s education plan passed the legislature and included $50 million of new investment into K-12. We increased voc-ed funding by 50 percent. We started a three year pilot program, Parents as Teachers, aimed at getting our youngsters ready for school.

We also decreased the Sitka property tax for required local contribution to K-12 from 3.1 to 2.65 mills. This lowers Sitka’s required local contribution by $522,000. The state picks up the difference and locals will decide what to do with these savings.

One topic on many people’s minds is oil taxes. I think one thing we can all agree upon is oil production is declining, and we must do something to address that decline, since 90 percent of our state revenues come from oil taxes.

A little history: I voted to move ACES out of the House, which set up the foundation for the oil tax structure we have in place today.

Making law is a complex process. Making good law requires compromise. HB 110 passed the House, expecting it would change in the Senate and a compromise bill would result.

That didn’t happen and we never got to the middle ground on the oil tax debate. I wanted a compromise bill that had incentives for new oil production while maximizing state revenues, and that is what I support.

I want to make it clear that HB 110 is dead. The so called “$2 billion give-away” is dead. It is not on the table and I do not support it.

I support the introduction of a compromise bill next legislative session that targets new oil production with a balanced set of incentives and credits while maximizing state revenues.

Getting there will take time and hard work, and will take all sides getting beyond the ‘bumper-sticker’ mentality that only serves to inflame the oil tax debate.

I look forward to continuing to help the district, and Southeast, be a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family. Thank you.

State Rep. Bill Thomas is a Republican from Haines, and is running for House District 34.

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