Homer Rep. Vance breaks media silence on Dunleavy budget

Feb 20, 2019

Homer Rep. Sarah Vance spoke with constituents before leaving for Juneau in January.
Credit Aaron Bolton, KBBI News

Homer Rep. Sarah Vance is for the first time speaking out publicly about Gov. Michael Dunleavy’s proposed budget cuts. The freshman Republican has been media shy since being elected in November. But she broke her silence on AM talk radio Wednesday.

Vance doesn’t talk to the media very often. Citing scheduling conflicts since Dunleavy unveiled his spending plan, she’s canceled three interviews with KBBI. She also did not return requests for comment from the Peninsula Clarion.

But she broke her media silence this week. On Tuesday, she offered radio stations – including KBBI – a roughly 1-minute pre-recorded message on the budget. She also gave newspapers like the Homer News a similar written statement. 

The next day, the normally media-shy Republican went on The Michael Dukes Show. The Wasilla-based radio host is known for his right-wing views, and during the roughly 30-minute interview, Vance gave her take on Gov. Dunleavy’s budget.

Dukes: “What is your reaction to people, to institutions, to media outlets and things like that who just say, ‘The sky is falling. There’s no way we can do all this.’ What’s your initial reaction to all this?”

Vance: “It’s time to do the hard things. The mom in me wants to say it’s going to be ok. We’re not going to die.”

Vance acknowledged Dunleavy’s proposed cuts have caused concern. She said her office received more than 60 phone calls and emails.

However, during her appearance on the Michael Dukes Show, she didn’t mention some of the governor’s more contentious cuts. Cuts that include roughly $300 million to public schools. Kenai Peninsula Borough officials estimate that would cost the district about $20 million.

She also didn’t mention cuts to the state ferry system that would shut down the Alaska Marine Highway in October.

Here’s what she did talk about: A proposal to divert oil and gas property tax revenue from local governments to the state.

“That one was the first one that I said, ‘Wow, this could have a lot of serious implications throughout the state,’” Vance said. “For this year, it would put $400 million to the state revenue if that oil and gas tax were repealed. For our Kenai Peninsula Borough, it would mean about $18 million just this year.”

The borough said it would actually lose roughly $15 million, funding largely used for emergency services and road maintenance.

Vance said she mostly agreed with the governor that the state needs to balance its budget through cuts and efficiencies. But she also said Alaskans concerned about reduced services should speak up.

“The other aspect of this is that citizens need to be riding those commissioners of the departments, saying you’re going to have to do things differently,” Vance said. “You’re going to have to do things smart because it’s up to them on how the numbers fall out in their department. If they just start cutting and slashing away, that’s on them.”

Vance isn’t among Republicans in the House’s Democratic-led majority coalition. She heavily criticized former Rep. Paul Seaton for joining a similar coalition last year. She said Democrats and their allies will be an obstacle to the governor’s cost-cutting agenda.

But she’ll have some sway. She was assigned to the House Fisheries Committee and the House State Affairs Committee, which will consider a number of bills on everything from the Permanent Fund dividend to a proposal to require voter approval before the Legislature could raise taxes.