Name: Debra Call
District: Lieutenant Governor
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Where were you born? Palmer
If you weren't born in Alaska, when did you come here?
Age on election day: 64
If you've attended college, which schools did you attend? What's your highest degree achieved?
Washington State University, MBA
What is or was your main career?
Retired now, but my career has been in executive management, operations, and HR
If you've held or run for public office before, which one(s)?
If you have a spouse or significant other whom you live with, what is their name?
Willard “Rusty” Gump
If you have children, what are their first names and ages?
Why are you running for office?
Over the last four years crime has gone up, quality of education has gone down, and unemployment has hovered around twice the national average—all while elected officials continue to fail to put a long-term sustainable fiscal plan in place. I’m running for Lt. Governor because I think Mark and I have the opportunity to bring much needed leadership and vision to Juneau. Mark has a proven track record working across the aisle to solve problems, and my experience in rural economic development, workforce development, and management of large projects equips me to be a capable partner to Mark as Lt. Governor.
What are the most important issues facing Alaska?
The most important issues facing Alaska are increased crime, a failing educational system, and the threat to the Permanent Fund, which should be an endowment to future generations in perpetuity. Underpinning that has been a lack of leadership and vision in Juneau. Our elected officials are so caught up in the day to day skirmishes that they have not taken the steps to ensure that Alaska is put back on a path of long term, sustainable fiscal health.
What would you do to reduce crime in Alaska?
We need to focus on enforcement, accountability, and treatment. While much of the debate has focused on whether or not to repeal SB91, that ignores the fact that there was a very real problem before 91 was passed. We need to begin by filling the 40 vacant but funded state trooper positions. We also need to partner with Federal prosecutors on major crimes involving guns, gangs, and drugs. In terms of accountability, we need to ensure that we have courthouses that are open full time, and sentences that are commensurate with the crimes committed. At the same time, we must recognize that some people need treatment, not incarceration. Whether due to mental illness or substance abuse, we need to be able to make that differentiation.
Should dividends be paid under the original dividend formula?
I support Mark’s “Invest in Alaska” plan to constitutionally protect the dividend, using a POMV formula to calculate earnings. Half those earnings would be dedicated to the dividend, which would effectively remove the PFD as a political football which would be debated in every session going forward. It would also allow families to plan for the future, whether putting their PFD into an education fund for their kids, purchasing assets to start a small business, or just paying their bills and putting food on the table.
Should Permanent Fund earnings be used to pay for state government? How much?
The other part of Mark’s “Invest in Alaska” plan is to dedicate the other half of the earnings to fund public education. This would end the perennial process of pink slipping teachers (except in election years, of course), provide the stability our educational system so desperately needs, and free up approximately $1.3b in the general fund. Mark chose to dedicate this funding to education rather than the general fund because, much like the Dividend, education has been a political football in the budgeting process. This is bad for our students, and undermines our ability to recruit and retain quality teachers.
What, if anything would you cut from the budget?
I think this question misses the forest for the trees. The question shouldn’t be “what should we cut” but rather, “how can we use our resources in a more efficient and effective manner.” I can tell you from my experience in the private sector, both on the for-profit and non-profit side, that poor management costs resources, and not an insignificant amount. We need better management in Juneau, which is why I’m running for Lt. Governor.
Should Alaska have new or increased taxes? What would you suggest?
At this point, with two-thirds of Alaskans thinking the state is on the wrong track, there is not enough support for broad-based revenue enhancements. We must demonstrate to the people of Alaska the value they’re getting from government. Once that happens, we should have an honest dialogue about the level of services the people think is appropriate, and how to fund those services.
Have humans contributed to climate change, and if so, does the state bear any responsibility to undo some of the effects?
Yes, and we have villages that are literally falling into the ocean because of it. The state bears a responsibility to its citizens to ensure a basic level of safety and ability to provide for themselves. Just as government takes care of citizens that are beset by natural disasters, it also has an obligation to help those significantly adversely affected by climate change.
Do you agree or disagree with Gov. Walker's decision to expand Medicaid in 2014? How much do you believe that decision cost the state treasury?
I support Medicaid expansion, and I am proud to be running with Mark Begich, who lost his US Senate seat because he voted in favor of the bill that made it possible. Everyone deserves access to quality, affordable care and Medicaid expansion was a great step in that direction. But access to health care and spiraling costs are still a huge problem in Alaska, and there are further steps the state can take to reduce costs and increase access. For example, the state could leverage its purchasing power, partner with other small rural states to expand its risk pool, and pursue creative partnerships like the one between the VA and ANTHC that allows Vets to get treatment at Native facilities.