Name: Oliver Schiess
District: Senate District G
Area: Eagle River
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Where were you born? Seattle, Washington
If you weren't born in Alaska, when did you come here? I moved to Alaska in 2015 immediately after my service in the Marine Corps and graduation from college.
Age on election day: 38
If you've attended college, which schools did you attend? What's your highest degree achieved?
Georgia Southwestern State University - Bachelor of Science (Mathematics, with minor in Education)
What is or was your main career?
U.S. Marine Corps, Gunnery Sergeant and more recently Senior Logistics Analyst
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?
My wife Natelie who has supported my running for office long before I had any idea this was something I would do.
If you have children, what are their first names and ages?
Liam (18 years old), Tininna (12 years old), Sophia (10 years old) and Peter (9 years old)
Why are you running for office?
I’m running because I am frustrated at the damage being caused due to dysfunction and partisanship within our state government. We need leaders willing to set party politics, special interests, and ego aside to do what is right for our state. I have not seen this from current politicians or my opponent and that is why I feel a duty to step up and run.
The idea that politicians owe loyalty to a political party above the people is something that I am fighting to change. I am here to represent my district and our state. My loyalty lies with the people I represent. The people within my district have made clear what they expect from our next state senator. Our community needs a senator who will work together with other legislators, regardless of party, to address crime, our budget, unemployment, and to ensure we have a high-quality education system.
What are the most important issues facing Alaska?
There are a number of pressing issues facing our state. Most, if not all of these issues can be traced back to mismanagement of our state dollars and within our government. The key issues, such as crime, the PFD, our education system, our economy, and our failing infrastructure can all be tied to our state budget.
The mismanagement and lack of willingness of our legislators to work across the isle is an impediment to any substantial and long lasting solutions for our state. I intend to work with all legislators, regardless of their political party, because that is what the people of Alaska elect us to do.
What would you do to reduce crime in Alaska?
The first step is to repeal SB91 and then bring lawmakers back to the table in a lessons learned approach. Repealing SB91 is not the sole solution to addressing crime within our state. We must recognize that crime has several root causes.
High unemployment rates and our opioid crisis are key factors driving crime in Alaska. I will pursue stability and consistency within our budget as well as within our taxation and regulatory systems. This would have the result of drawing in new industry and small business growth, putting Alaskans back to work and creating a more prosperous economy. We must ensure that those struggling with addiction or alcoholism have the resources available if they are ready to become tax paying and law-abiding citizens. I intend to make sure our law enforcement and prosecutors have the resources available to enforce our laws and keep our communities safe.
Should dividends be paid under the original dividend formula?
Yes. The PFD was never intended to bail out government inaction and capping the PFD was a direct tax on the people of Alaska. The Permanent Fund Dividend must be placed into the Alaska Constitution so that we can keep it secure and out of the hands of politicians.
To ensure the longevity of the PFD for future generations and drastically increase dividends, we as a state need to implement a fixed revenue sharing model. With this model, our PFDs for this year should have been around $3,000, as opposed to the $1,600 we are receiving. This must either happen through the Legislature, which I will work tirelessly to accomplish, or through a ballot initiative from the people of Alaska.
Should Permanent Fund earnings be used to pay for state government? How much?
The PFD belongs to the people of Alaska. If we can utilize a small portion of annual profits through a revenue sharing model, we can close the budget deficit drastically, while creating much larger PFDs then in recent years. This also ensures that politicians do not dip into the earning reserve down the road which is the most pressing threat to the PFD.
What, if anything would you cut from the budget?
We must always be vigilant for wasteful spending. In the Marines, I learned that a fundamental of spending is that short term and shifting budgets always lead to wasteful spending. The most important saving model would be the implementation of a stable budget and industry tax structure that does not shift every year.
Another cut which would serve our state and reduce our budget is to eliminate, or at least reduce per diem when legislators cannot come together to pass an operating budget during the normal session. This would incentivize our legislators to come together and deal with pressing legislation earlier, rather than at the end of the session.
If we continue to recklessly cut our budget without forward planning, we cripple the state’s ability to generate revenue moving forward. Reckless cuts will not serve to reduce government spending, but only increase spending over time.
Should Alaska have new or increased taxes? What would you suggest?
I do not believe the state should or needs to implement any new taxes on the people of Alaska. Sadly, the failure of our legislators and government to come to a fiscal solution has resulted in one of the most severe taxes in Alaskan history in the form of capping the PFD.
Right now, we have a mismanagement problem more than a revenue problem. Through the implementation of stable and consistent budgeting, tax structures, and regulations we can promote investment from industry and small business growth. This stability will also incentivize industry to pay a more equitable and profitable amount to the people of Alaska.
Have humans contributed to climate change, and if so, does the state bear any responsibility to undo some of the effects?
Yes, human actions have contributed to global rises in temperature. Ignoring this issue is not a option for Alaska. We are facing the consequences of climate change but can also take advantage of new opportunities, such as the potential for new commerce as increased Arctic temperatures create new navigation channels. Beyond addressing immediate impacts, such as coastal erosion, melting permafrost, and impacts on industry, Alaska should take advantage of changing global markets. The renewable energy market is growing globally and it would be prudent for Alaska to assume a greater leadership role in renewable production.
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 believe Medicaid expansion was the right move for Alaska, but ultimately it is not the final answer. Alaska must address the extremely high medical costs in a way that makes sense for our state. There are successful examples within Alaska as well as around the globe both nationally and internationally. The responsible action would be to consider all options and tailor them to fit our state’s unique needs and objectives. If we act appropriately, we can minimize the footprint of Alaska’s government while also offering Alaskans high-quality, accessible and affordable healthcare.