Name: Mia Costello
District: Senate District K
Party Affiliation: Republican
Where were you born? Anchorage, Alaska
If you weren't born in Alaska, when did you come here?
Age on election day: 50
If you've attended college, which schools did you attend? What's your highest degree achieved?
Harvard University, B.A. in government
University of Alaska Southeast, M.A. in teaching
What is or was your main career?
My main career was as a classroom teacher in the Anchorage and Juneau school districts. My secondary career was in communications. I served as a public information officer for Gov. Walter Hickel and as deputy communications director for Gov. Frank Murkowski. I also worked as a public relations executive for communications firms in Anchorage.
If you've held or run for public office before, which one(s)?
Prior to being elected to the Alaska Senate in 2014, I served for four years in the state House of Representatives. My first campaign was for the Anchorage School Board.
If you have a spouse or significant other whom you live with, what is their name?
If you have children, what are their first names and ages?
I have two boys -- Andrew John and Roman, ages 13 and 11
Why are you running for office?
I’m running to represent my West Anchorage neighbors because I want my children and future generations to have the same or better opportunities than I had while attending public schools here and growing up in Alaska.
What are the most important issues facing Alaska?
Crime and our economy. SB 91 was supposed to save money and reduce crime. It hasn’t done either of those things. Once it took effect, it immediately became clear that it was making Alaskans more vulnerable to criminals. That’s why I submitted a bill to repeal and replace SB 91 and introduced and passed an amendment to return judges’ discretion. We need to repeal the failed SB 91 and replace it with legislation that will keep Alaskans safe. Growing the economy is also important. I introduced equity-crowd investing for small businesses to get access to capital and ride-sharing companies to Alaska, like Lyft and Uber, which created new jobs. We also need to better support the tourism industry, which has a return $35 for every dollar we invest.
What would you do to reduce crime in Alaska?
I introduced SB 127 to repeal and replace SB 91. Nearly five thousand constituents responded to my survey this year and nearly 90 percent agreed that our current crime wave is one of the most serious issues we face today. Eighty-two percent said SB 91 should be repealed.
More than one thousand respondents shared personal stories. One woman said she was carjacked at gunpoint in her driveway minutes after her children went into her house. She hopes to one day garden in her front yard without fear. This is unacceptable, and I will continue to fight for the repeal of SB 91.
SB 91 included a catastrophic catch-and-release system that required judges to release certain defendants without bail – sometimes dangerous repeat offenders. I pushed an amendment through to give discretion back to judges so they never have to release a defendant they feel is a threat to society.
Should dividends be paid under the original dividend formula?
I support at 50/50 plan where any draw from the earnings is split—50 percent to pay for government and 50 percent for the dividend. A five-year lookback in the formula means when the lookback includes the drop in oil prices the dividend will be affected negatively. A 50/50 split means the program is sustainable.
Should Permanent Fund earnings be used to pay for state government? How much?
To be clear, the corpus of the permanent fund is protected by the state constitution. The earnings generated by the corpus are used to fund dividends. We now manage the fund as an endowment, which is how similar funds are managed across the world. It’s an approach that will protect and grow the corpus and protect the dividends for future generations of Alaskans.
Because the fund is now managed as an endowment, I support using a portion of the earnings for government and a portion for the dividend. The percentage set aside for government will be a major subject of the next session. After going door-to-door and talking to constituents, I know how important the dividend is to people, and I’m leaning toward a 50-50 split. My focus will be on keeping the fund – and our dividends – strong for ourselves and for future generations of Alaskans.
What, if anything would you cut from the budget?
The legislature has been reducing the budget for several years now, and I think we should continue to be vigilant about looking for efficiencies. Beyond cuts, we need to focus on developing resources and supporting industries. We also need to streamline burdensome regulations for small businesses and make access to capital easier for innovators and entrepreneurs. More than 5,200 jobs were created in Alaska last year just by new small businesses. They are the engine of our economy.
There are areas in the budget that I would not cut, including the Departments of Fish and Game and Public Safety, especially the Alaska State Troopers. I also believe we should support education by inflation-proofing the formula, which sets the amount of funds that go to each school district.
Should Alaska have new or increased taxes? What would you suggest?
I oppose new taxes on Alaskans – especially during our unprecedented recession caused by the recent fall in oil prices. As the chair of the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee, I have held many hearings on this issue and heard hundreds of hours of public testimony on the myriad of tax proposals introduced by Gov. Bill Walker. It’s clear that an income tax or other broad-based tax on revenue-generating industries would move us in the absolute wrong direction. It would hurt hard-working families and our economy – while having almost no impact on our deficits.
Those dollars are better spent by Alaskans making economic choices for their families and businesses. The amount of revenue generated by an income tax would be insignificant compared to the onerous impact such a tax would have on Alaskans.
Have humans contributed to climate change, and if so, does the state bear any responsibility to undo some of the effects?
I’m not certain if humans have contributed to climate change, but there is evidence the globe is warming – and this is having a significant impact on Alaskan communities. Regardless of why our climate is changing, we have a duty to look out for our fellow Alaskans.
The state’s role should be to work with our federal counterparts to prepare for the impacts to communities. I co-chair the Innovation Working Group of the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region (PNWER), which is a partnership between Alaska, the Yukon, and the Northwest Territories. One of our goals is to establish a national lab in Alaska that will help us to prepare for the problems caused by global warming and the issues that our cities and villages will face.
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’m torn on this because I have seen individuals who have lost their jobs, and they have depleted their savings to pay for health care. This is a serious problem, and we must do all we can to make health care affordable in Alaska.
On the other hand, we have not received what we were promised with this expansion. The costs associated with Gov. Walker’s unilateral expansion of Medicaid have ballooned far beyond what was projected. The Walker administration promised that the expansion would actually save the state money – which has turned out to be a complete fantasy. No matter whether we move to keep or scale back the Medicaid expansion, we need to address the rising costs of health care. Many families currently can’t afford medical insurance—the costs are out of control, and especially hurt senior citizens on fixed incomes.