Kodiak’s City Council and the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly held a joint work session for the first time since September 2021 on Wednesday. State Rep. Louise Stutes and State Sen. Gary Stevens joined the session remotely from Juneau to share their priorities going into the legislative session.
Rep. Stutes, a Republican from Kodiak, joined the meeting a bit later due to negotiations in the House. Stutes was previously Speaker of the House, but earlier this week she was moved to the minority caucus. Wasilla Republican Cathy Tilton will serve as Speaker this legislative session. Stutes said while she’s now in a smaller position, her history of networking should protect her constituents’ interests.
“Don’t worry about where I have ended up at this point because over the years that I’ve been here, I have made some very, very good relationships with some of the not only House members, but some of the senators,” she said.
She said her plan is to work with other moderates, as well as Sen. Stevens, another Kodiak Republican, to ensure Kodiak remains a priority.
“I’m not too concerned at this point what kind of title I have or don’t have,” she said. “My concern is making sure that our communities are taken care of.”
Stevens on the other hand, is once again the senate president. He previously served in that role for two terms from 2009 through 2012.
“This is my third time around as senate president so it’s pretty interesting to come back 10 years later, and it’s a great pleasure – I’m really looking forward to it,” he said.
Stevens said improving education funding remains one of his top goals.
“We just simply have to address the issue of the per-student amount of money we give to the districts, and so I’m sure you’ll see that as in the end will be a major issue,” he said.
Stevens also spoke about how the lack of pension plans for new state employees has driven some to find other jobs. Teachers, fire crews, police, and even food stamp administrator positions have been difficult for the state to fill.
In the meeting, Stevens also said that while a nearly $4,000 permanent fund dividend payment as proposed by Gov. Dunleavy is enticing, it would come at a significant cost.
“In order to do that dividend, we would have to have an income tax or sales tax to pay for it or the alternative of that would be to drastically cut state services, schools and university, and all those other things,” the senator said.
Stevens also addressed funding for big infrastructure projects in the state, like port and harbor repairs.
“Throughout my district in Kodiak and Homer and Cordova, Seldovia, and Seward, docks are a great issue, a big issue, and so docks and harbors are an area that we could very well do some bonding,” he said.
Both officials can be contacted in their Juneau offices during the legislative session. Representative Stutes can be contacted at (907) 465-2487 or Senator Stevens can be contacted at (907) 465-4925.