If you google Gary Steven’s name, you’ll find a slew of articles about hall-of-famer, Gary L Stevens, a diminutive horse jockey with a long history of racing, and Alaska’s Senator Gary Stevens has also been in the saddle for quite a few years. And he wants to stay in the saddle. In the upcoming general election, the GOP member will be running for senator of District P.
Stevens has been mayor of the Kodiak Island Borough, mayor of the City of Kodiak, and a member of the House of Representatives, among many other positions of leadership. He’s also been senator since 2003, which is a period he refers back to when asked what he’s most proud of accomplishing during his time in government.
“I think the four years I served as Senate president [are] probably the most outstanding years. I accomplished a lot for the communities I represented and managed to put some $16 billion into savings during that time, and that’s what we’ve been living off ever since. Instead of finding other ways to fund our budget, we’ve been using our savings, but that’s coming to an end soon.”
And with it coming to the end, he says Alaska needs to find other solutions.
“What we have to do is really accept the fact that we are in financial difficulty and try to find a solution to bringing in more revenues. The first thing we have to do I think is reduce some of the tax credits we’ve been giving to the oil companies. We need to reduce those. Secondly, we need to keep looking at that budget. Over time we’ve reduced the budget by about a billion dollars, so that’s a pretty enormous reduction.”
But as he says cutting alone won’t do the trick.
“I mean, if we fired every employee who works for the state of Alaska, every employee, we still would not balance the hole that we have in our budget of $3.5 billion. So, simply cutting the budget is not the answer. We have to also find ways to put more revenues into that budget. So, that’s the key thing that people need to realize. That we’ve got to find a way to get more money into our budget or we’re going to damage the very basic infrastructure of the state.”
While there are many ways to do this, Stevens explains many sources of funds will only have a small impact.
“What we have to look at is major revenues into our budget like some use of the permanent fund earnings or some use of an income tax. Even an income tax only raises about $200 million, so again, keep your eye on the ball here. We’ve got a $3.5 billion hole. That’s what we have to solve.”
In November, Stevens will run for his 13th year in the Senate, which – Alaskans hope – will be a lucky year for the senate, Alaska, and the state of the budget.