Neal Foster of Nome, the current Representative for House District 39 in Alaska, is running for re-election again this year. Foster has held that seat since 2009.
Foster says he wants to remain in office to address some specific issues, including providing a full Permanent Fund Dividend, funding infrastructure and other critical services in Western Alaska, and limit the bycatch of salmon.
“I’ve been in talks with the Fish & Game Commissioner and also working with organizations such as Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association. And in my opinion, a lot of the (fishing) closures we are seeing are largely attributable to both the bycatch by trawlers, as well as the intercept of salmon in Area M, which is along the Aleutian Chain there,” Foster said.
As Chair of the House Finance Committee, Foster has the ability to help craft the state budget on an annual basis. He does plan to prioritize a full PFD this year while also balancing the state budget, the State Representative said.
“And right now, going back to the per-barrel oil tax credits, I’m going to continue to push on that. Because that raises $1.2 billion in the state’s coffers, and right now that’s benefiting the oil industry,” Foster said.
Foster brought up the implementation of Percent of Market Value (POMV) that was adopted by the Legislature years ago to use money from the interest earned on the PFD to help pay for state services.
Representative Foster is not against the oil industry but will focus on re-structuring a more balanced oil tax credit system.
The Legislature might be more open than before to implementing some kind of new tax in Alaska rather than just relying on the oil tax credits as a source of revenue, Foster told KNOM previously.
Foster is also a pilot and flies his own bush plane to as many communities in the region as he can during the summer months when the Legislature is not in session. He pointed out that not every community in House District 39 has a Village Public Safety Officer, or even the funding to hire one.
In order to improve public safety and the VPSO program in Western Alaska, Foster is taking the “do more with less” approach.
“For example, allowing VPSOs to travel between villages. Just hypothetically, if you had one VPSO in Teller but none in Brevig Mission, at the time they were prohibited from being able to travel to that village, even though they are just a few miles away, to help out. And in some legislation that I co-sponsored, we made it that they could travel between villages,” Foster said.
That legislation is called Senate Bill 81, which was officially updated and passed by the Legislature earlier this year to implement some of the recommendations made by the VPSO working group, which Senator Donny Olson of Golovin is a part of.
Neal Foster is running as the Democratic Party candidate for House District 39. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.
Image at top: Representative Neal Foster of House District 39. Photo courtesy of Neal Foster.