Interview with John Cox
John Cox, one of the three candidates for the State House District 31 seat, is a business owner in Anchor Point, where he has lived for the past 10 years.
Cox moved to Alaska originally with his family when his father, who was in the Army, was stationed in the state. When Cox turned 18, he declared Alaska residency before joining the Navy. He served for 30 years, and then moved to Anchor Point to settle down as a businessman.
Cox owns Smokin’ Fine Cigars and Loose Tobacco, and Undercut Services, a snowplowing and sanding business. He has been training his employees to be able to operate both businesses in his absence, should he be elected.
Cox spent the majority of his Navy career as a survival, evasion, resistance and escape (SERE) instructor. In addition attending Navy colleges for special training, Cox received his associate degree in administrational law and a teaching certificate from Southwestern College. He also took courses at Excelsior College and MB Riddle Aeronautical, accumulating 280 college credits – two courses short of a bachelor’s degree, he said.
Cox previously ran against Congressman Don Young for Alaska’s lone U.S. House seat in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
Cox lives in Anchor Point with his wife Susan. His three adult children all live in San Diego. Robert served in the Navy as a corpsman, during which time he worked with the Marines. Jennifer is a special needs instructor and teaching sign language. Joseph works in a retail store and is waiting to join the Navy.
Q: What level of budget do you support and how would you balance that budget?
A: I believe that … $4.5 billion is the target where we could balance the budget. Now it’s going to hurt and a lot of people say we can’t balance the budget but we can.
The legislatures and the governor right now, they do not want to make the hard calls. I’ll give you an example. One way to help cut the budget down is to incorporate schools districts. There’s no reason to have 15 different school districts. I’m just using this as an example, let’s just say here in Homer we’ve got 15 school districts – I know we don’t have that. But if you incorporate them all into one, instead of paying all these high salaries to administrators throughout the area to do the same job, you’d save millions. In Juneau, they’ve got 10 individuals right now that are close to retiring and each one of them make $100,000 a year. That’s a million dollars if you force them to retire and take their high pay that the unions have worked them into accepting, but that’s just some of the things.
Here’s another thing. The legislators right now cannot balance the budget. They cannot get to Juneau and do the job they’re paid to do. They’re paid to go there for 90 days. They’re paid per diem $212 or $213 dollars a day. If they can’t get the job done, they have to go back into special session.
They shouldn’t be getting paid per diem because it’s just as if you were a mechanic for me and I ask you to tune my car up and you tell me its $100 to do the tune up. I give you $100 and you say its done and then you come back and say, ‘I still got to do some more, it’s going to be another $100.’ Well guess what, you gotta put your big boy pants on and say ‘no, you quoted me a price and this is how much I paid. You didn’t get the job done. You’re going to do it out of your own pocket now.’ That’s some of the things we need to do.
We’re going to have to do a cut across the board, at least a 5 percent cut and that means the governor’s salary, his per diem, the legislators’ pay, across the board, especially in the government side of the house. They made cuts over here in all these little programs, but they didn’t cut the executive side of the house and that’s where we need to focus. We’ve gotten too bloated over there.
The governor has gone, and don’t get me wrong, I’ve met Governor Walker a few times and we’ve talked a couple times and I liked what he had to say when he first started running, but what he’s doing now it just seems like he’s picking his favorites. He’s appointing individuals to positions that are going to help him out. It’s just mind boggling he’s not doing what’s right for Alaska. He’s doing what’s right for his own special interest.
Q: What would some of those big budget items you say we need to cut?
A: For an example, I need a new truck. I need it badly. But I can’t afford a new truck right now, so I have to just put a Band-Aid on it and fix it. Here they want to put a new fire station and a new police center, but they’re asking for $12 million for this. Well guess what, what they got will suffice right now, but the city doesn’t have the money and to raise taxes to pay for it is wrong.
Here for example, the state wants to do the Knik Bridge. … We know they need it, but we can’t afford it right now so we’re just going to have to put it on hold. The dam they want to build to generate power, that’s another one. Yeah we could all use that dam up there, the Susitna Dam, but there’s no money for it right now so let’s just wait until we’re solvent again. There’s a couple of big projects like that that we need to save, like the LNG gas line that the governor wants the liquid gas. Great concept, but we’re broke. And I believe that the oil companies are trying to strong arm the state into making us put up more money. The state should not be picking winners and losers.
I know we need to make hard cuts. It’s going to hurt everybody. It’s either take the cuts in the projects or wind up paying a 15 percent, as Paul Seaton wants to implement, income tax. I’m personally adamant against any type of income tax at all, especially attacking our PFD that’s just wrong.
As far as the PFD, people have to understand the reason we have the PFD. The PFD was not designed to help the state in shortfalls in their inability to balance their budget. The PFD was to make up to the citizens and residents of Alaska as a result of when we became a state, that the state signed over its mineral rights to the federal government. So when Governor Hammond came up with this plan, it was to compensate Alaskans for our mineral rights and that’s all it was for. It wasn’t to pay for programs that the governor decides he wants.
Q: If elected, and if the Legislature considered it, would you vote to repeal the citizen initiative (2014’s Ballot Measure 2) that made marijuana legal for personal and medical use as well as commercial production and sale?
A: As a legislator, you need to vote on what the people want, not based on your personal beliefs. I believe in the lesser of the magistrate. My job as a legislator is to protect the people, not grow the government.
Right now, the state as of October last year voted to have marijuana approved with an overwhelming turn out. Whether we like it or not, it’s our job to make sure it is implemented as safely as possible. Now, they got the petition going around to get it regulated, take it off. If they get the petition to take it off and it passes, then it is my job to make sure that that happens.
That’s the problem with a lot of legislators. They take their personal beliefs to Juneau or back to Washington D.C. You’re supposed to representing the mass. Just because you have one or two individuals that are upset with the decision doesn’t mean I let my personal beliefs go with the three.
As it stands right now, because it was approved I think the legislature, let’s put it this way, Sun Tzu once said, the more rules and regulations you place upon the people, the poorer the people become. Because it won, the legislators and the board of governing people, they’re regulating it so heavily that it seems like they’re trying to regulate it out of existence. They’re fighting the will of the people.
I consider myself an educated man and I look at all the pros and cons of the opposition as far as the amount of revenue it will generate here. Also look at the negative sides of it as well as far as crime and drug addiction. As a representative, you have to look at all the positives and negatives of an item like this and do what’s best for the city and the state.
Q: How can Alaska lessen its dependence on oil and gas tax revenues and expand its economy in other ways? What do you see as Alaska’s post-petroleum economy?
A: We basically need to tell the federal government, this is our land, we’re going to drill, we’re going to mine, we’re going to fish, we’re gonna do with our lumber, harvest the lumber in Southeast Alaska. We are the stewards of this state, not the people in Washington. We need to get away from the tether of funds that come from the federal government.
What happens is we get in to the point where, ‘we’ll give you a million dollars if you keep doing it our way’ and we as a state become so attached to receiving those funds from the federal government, we won’t do anything else. So if we say, you know what we don’t need your money federal government. We’ll do it our own because Alaska, we are our own sovereign state. We have a constitution and our own constitution supersedes the federal government. Let’s open up Alaska, let’s go drill, let’s not ask for them to drill on our land, let’s go mine, let’s go fish. We can do it.
Q: How does that help us lessen our dependence on oil and gas tax revenues?
A: Because we have to create jobs here and as it stands right now, Alaska relies on that three-legged stool: fishing, tourism and the oil. And oil of course includes the mining. We need to make it so that businesses want to come to our state … for an example, one of the issues I’ve been working on, I approached (a gun manufacturing company) to have them come up and open their own gun shop up here. It’s a big factory. It would create hundreds and hundreds of jobs.
Reason being is we’ve got plenty of room. We’ve got the oil and gas to heat their plants. But the problem is we have to give them a tax incentive. We don’t need to charge them corporate taxes like all the other states. You look at New York, they’re offering, ‘hey come to New York with your business for five years and we won’t charge you any taxes.’ We need to do the same concept. Entice them to come to the state and promise them that we won’t tax them to death.
Q: Are there other businesses you think fit Alaska well?
A: We need to open up the forestry industry. It’s our lumber, let us harvest it. We spend so much money buying lumber from Canada and we’re growing here. Let’s bring technology up here. There’s several other businesses that we can use. Just look at aeronautical down in Kodiak. They didn’t want it up here on the main island so the military and private company went down to Kodiak with the missile test site. Hey come on, there are all kinds of programs out there where they’re looking for people to tell them, come, come invest in Alaska. That’s what we need to do. We need to get away from that mentality of fishing, tourism and oil. We need to get away from that. I don’t mean get away from that completely though.
Q: Do you think it is best for Republicans to decide issues in caucus and present a united front in legislature, or do you think they should act foremost in the interest of their district?
A: In the interest of my district. The problem is other legislators that are running for office and I wholeheartedly believe this, they say ‘will you join a caucus’ and I expect them to say no for the simple reason. People don’t know what a caucus is.
A caucus, so you are my district and you want me to go vote for project A, but some people join a caucus and a caucus, basically what I’m doing instead of casting my vote for you, I’m giving my vote to this caucus and a caucus is usually held together by special interest groups that are supporting and funding so whatever they want usually comes out of the caucus.
So do you want me to vote for you? Or let this caucus vote for you? And that’s why I say no on the caucus.
Q: What big opportunities is Alaska missing?
A: It’s missing its opportunity to grow. It can grow exponentially. I know a lot of people want to keep Alaska very secluded. They don’t want to see, they want to keep it that quaint little town, that little village where people come spend a few dollars here and there.
That’s another issue that I truly believe in. We want to bring money to this state, or revenue, one of the things I want to do when I get to Juneau is I want to bring Powerball, the lotto here to the state. It will generate millions of dollars. We need it. I mean, a lot of people will say, well that’s gambling. Well, are you going to stop people from flying down to Las Vegas every winter?
It’s just amazing. During my travels throughout the state when I was running for U.S. House, that’s one of the things a lot of people had asked. What about bringing gambling or Powerball or something like that to the state? The whole concept of pool tabs is cute. Those are the things we need to do.
Alaska has a lot of opportunities to grow. We’re huge. We’ve land that no one’s even set foot on. We need to get away from the concept that we’re going to keep it quaint little towns for people to come up here and spend the summers alone and then go home. We can bring in tourism from all over the world. We can bring more, a lot more.
Q: How would that growth happen?
A: Other than businesses expanding, it’s one of those things that it will take time. It’s not going to happen overnight, just like when I opened up my business. It took me awhile to study, to feel, what was needed in the area. I remember awhile back they wanted to bring a Walmart or a Fred Meyer, I think it was a Walmart, in this area and they said no because they wanted to keep it small. We want certain services around this area, ie. fire, roads cleaned, but you gotta have a source of revenue and to do that you need jobs.
Q: If Alaska could get a do-over and change anything in its history or how it acted, what would that be?
A: When we became a state, I would not sign over our mineral rights. And based on law, we as Alaskans do not receive equal footing from the federal government because we’re so heavily regulated. If you look at each state, the only reason that Alaska is – only 18 percent of the state is only owned by the people, the rest of it is all federal government – and if you look at other states, the only reason that other states aren’t so controlled by the federal government is it doesn’t have all the natural resources that we do.
I would make sure that in the agreement to become a state, I would terminate that handing over our mineral rights and made it a point that the land belongs to Alaska and not controlled by a handful of representatives in Washington. Give our land back to us. Let us control it. As a steward of this state, I know more about protecting it than somebody that’s never been here trying to tell us how to maintain our lands. I know better, I wouldn’t let someone come in here and rape all the trees. There’s a point where you can harvest and still maintain the beauty. You can drill and still maintain the purity of the land.
Q: Do you support Donald Trump, who is now the Republican Party’s presidential candidate?
A: I do. To pick between Hillary and Donald … As a person in the military, I know with my top secret clearance, I know that if I would have left any type of classified information out, whether it be just a little file sitting on my desk and someone had access to it, I would have been persecuted. I would have been hung up, I would be sitting in a jail cell right now, just wishing and counting the days until I pass away.
She’s so crooked. It’s unbelievable. What bothers me is a lot of people are going to vote for Hillary just because she’s a woman. That’s the wrong reason to vote for her. Yeah, maybe we need a woman in office, but not this one. If you look at her history, there’s always been some shady dealing going on and its not because I dislike her, but the facts don’t lie. … I expect people to hold my feet to the fire, just as I expect everyone else’s feet to be held. What’s good for the goose is what’s good for the gander. What’s happening is people are getting away, they’re allowing her to get away with murder.
If it was anyone else doing this type of thing, would they be receiving the same treatment? Regardless of whether they’re Democrat or Republican or independent, and a lot of people don’t understand that there’s probably about 32 registered parties out there, it comes down to that. You have to treat everybody equal and give everybody a fair shake. I said earlier, if 51 percent of the people say we want to do this, that’s what we do until the next election cycle and then we change it. But yeah she is criminal, criminal act.
Q: Do your reasons for supporting Trump extend beyond issues with Hillary?
A: No, no, it’s, one of the reasons, he has a lot to say.
Let’s back up a few years. I voted against Barack Obama because this is a man that came out of obscurity to hold the highest office in the nation. And I’m going something’s not right. My sisters basically don’t talk to me anymore because I said I don’t trust the man and so I told them, I said he won, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Let him prove me wrong. And if you look at all the policies that he has done, they are failing this country. These are dividing this country. It has nothing to do with color of skin or anything of that nature. It’s just that his policies are failing.
…It’s not because I dislike her (Hillary), it’s because I dislike her policies and her ability to get away with the two-sides of the coin.
Q: What about Trump’s policies, do you support those?
A: The problem I had with Trump at first was I’m a person of substance. When he first came out he says, I’m going to build a wall. I’m going to make the military great. I’m going to do this, this and this, and that’s what he kept reiterating over and over.
I’m a person of substance so I want to know how you’re going to do it, how much it’s going to cost me. I want to know your plan. I don’t want … just tell me I’m going to make America great. That’d be like me going I’m going to go down to Juneau and I’m going to make Alaska solvent again. How are you going to do it? Well I’m going to go down to Juneau and make Alaska solvent.
You have to have certain plans and that’s the same thing with him. But yeah, I’ll support him because if you look at the two, as a business owner, as a businessman he’s got overwhelming ideas on how to make the country solvent again.
Q: So then, you do believe that Trump has filled out his explanation of how he is going to do the things he promises?
A: Not everything. See, that’s one thing that I truly believe about Trump. Trump’s a businessman and when you want to succeed – here’s a saying I used to tell people. If you want to be a wino, you hang around with winos. If you want to be a doctor, you hang around with doctors. You want to be a lawyer, you hang around with lawyers.
Now Trump is a businessman, he’s there to make money. He surrounds himself with extremely intelligent individuals who are going to make money and I believe he’s going to do the same thing with this country. I believe that he’s going to surround himself with the smartest minds in military tactics, foreign affairs, those types of individuals. Whereas Hillary, I truly believe if she were to win, she’ll surround herself with her friends. People that practice socialism. … It’s just a Marxist mentality that they’re preaching to the people.
Anna Frost can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.