Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, stands outside of the Alaska State Capitol on May 20, 2022, in Juneau, Alaska. (Photo by Lisa Phu/Alaska Beacon)
The Alaska Beacon asked Alaska’s legislative candidates to answer a 15-question survey about their positions on a variety of issues. Read all of their responses here. Answers have not been edited.
Geran Tarr, Democratic candidate from Anchorage
The Alaska Constitution allows legislators to call a constitutional convention at any time. Are you interested in calling a convention?
Would you be willing to join a coalition majority in which the opposite political party controls a majority of seats?
Did not answer
Should new public employees have access to a pension?
Should the state take over the federal permitting process that regulates construction in wetlands?
Should Juneteenth be a state holiday?
How should the state of Alaska set the amount of the Permanent Fund dividend each year?
It is my job to represent the interests of my neighbors on all matters so I spent time working with neighbors- hosting meetings, inviting guest speakers, reviewing revenue proposals and legislation, conducting surveys, and communication via our newsletters to seek input to develop the elements of a fiscal plan, including the the amount of the dividend and POMV. We reviewed the diversity of views on the dividend and how the legislature might move forward to stop the annual fight over the amount. The proposed plans that came from this effort include the 50-50 split, the dividend amount set this year, as a realistic and achievable policy compromise so that we can move forward, in addition to recommendations for several other proposals that could achieve the support necessary to pass the legislature. I have advocated for the 50-50 split and a fiscal plan that is far less regressive than a dividend cut only plan that disproportionately impacts low-income and working class families, elders, and children.
What’s the biggest need in your district, and how would you address it?
Economic security. I have worked hard to advance a fiscal plan that is far less regressive than the dividend cut only plan that has been used since 2015. I have sponsored and supported legislation to advance other pieces necessary for a plan, including other revenue measures and areas for savings. I have also worked to advance equal pay legislation, living wages, paid sick leave, and affordable and accessible health care.
Economic insecurity is leading to more people experiencing homelessness and with not enough services or available housing many in our community are suffering. This pressure pushes people around our community often ending up in worse conditions. For neighbors not experiencing homelessness, there is concern about safety of our unhoused neighbors and what the long term plan is for our community. Affordable housing and supportive housing must be a part of our efforts at economic security.
At the individual level, for neighbors that need the social safety net, the constant worry about the government shutting down or programs being cut is tremendously stressful. For business owners it’s impossible to plan or know if it’s the right time to invest.
We need a fiscal plan so we can have economic stability for our state and for families.
What policies and laws should Alaska follow with regard to abortion?
Our constitution protects abortion rights in Alaska and the fundamental right to reproductive choice. We should follow the constitution and ensure access for all Alaskans.
How should the state reduce the threat of gun violence and mass shootings?
I have introduced red flag law legislation because red flag laws are a proven prevention policy. Research has shown these policies reduce suicides and prevent school and mass shootings. This policy is temporary in nature and very limited in scope to address crisis situations. It empowers family members to speak up and say something to save innocent lives. The policy includes due process and can include a penalty for filing a false report. A 2018 poll of Alaskans showed 84% would support this policy. Our efforts at preventing harm can be very effective.
How much should a legislator’s faith or religion determine state law and policy?
A person’s faith or religion is personal. As an elected official we take an oath to uphold the constitution. The constitution is the guide for decisions.
What should the state do to improve retention of public employees, including teachers?
Return to a defined benefit plan. Increase pay to be competitive compared to other states. Provide more training and support to professionals. Stop understaffing departments to reduce burnout.
What does an ideal state ferry system look like?
Reliable, predictable, affordable service. The system recognizes the importance for residents so strives to provide the best customer service and experience. The system also recognizes the importance for tourism so offers special experiences for visitors to Alaska.
What, if any, changes does the state need to make to ensure voting is equitable and secure?
We should take action on several items – a ballot cure process for absentee ballots, permanent absentee voting and/or statewide vote by mail, same day voter registration, more early voting locations, better pay for election workers, increase safety for election workers, more frequent updates to the voter registration list, more outreach to voters about district changes and new polling locations, more outreach to young people about voting and the process, and more outreach about candidates and upcoming elections. We can make things more user friendly and accessible.
What do you intend to do about the poor returns of salmon in the Yukon and Kuskokwim drainages, and what are the main causes of the problems?
This is devastating for our state. Our neighbors are experiencing food insecurity because of a lack of fish and Indigenous leaders have shared with me that because of the cultural importance are experiencing grief at the loss of salmon and connection to their traditional food. This must be a priority for state leaders. It has been for me.
As Chair of the House Fisheries Committee we worked to learn what happened. We heard from Department of Fish and Game staff, federal managers, tribal leaders, and other interested stakeholders. We are learning a lot from tagging fish and genetic research, but we learned about research gaps, for example, understanding ocean predation. We studied climate impacts to our fisheries, intercept fisheries, and overfishing by foreign ships. As one step for immediate action, the Fisheries Committee supported new budget requests for research projects that will fill in the gaps.
We also engaged in the discussion around bycatch and brought legislative attention to a topic of great concern for Alaskans across out state. We helped Alaskans understand the federal process and how to have their voices heard.
This work will be ongoing and must be a priority. Salmon runs across the state are showing cause for concern and we need to invest, learn as much as we can, and make changes where needed to ensure Alaska wild salmon forever.
What constitutional amendments, if any, do you support?
I support a placing a constitutional amendment before voters that would amend the constitution to protect the Permanent Fund for future generations by establishing the Percent of Market Value management of the Permanent Fund, limit the annual draw to no more than 5%, and that there shall be a dividend as described by statute.
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