Rep. Sarah Vance (R-Homer) addresses a crowd of people during a legislative update meeting Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019 at Captain’s Coffee in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Rep. Sarah Vance (R-Homer) addresses a crowd of people during a legislative update meeting Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019 at Captain’s Coffee in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Vance talks budget, communication at legislative update

House Rep. Sarah Vance (R-Homer) told constituents she won’t budge on her campaign promises of fighting against a state income tax and pushing for a $3,000 permanent fund dividend during a legislative update meeting last Thursday.

Dozens of people gathered at Captain’s Coffee in Homer last week to hear from Vance now that she’s back from Juneau. The representative still has one more special session ahead of her, but came to brief constituents on the process of forming a state operating budget, what happened with Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s line item vetoes, and other work like the repealing of crime bill SB91.

Things turned tense when meeting attendees accused Vance of not being communicative enough or listening to them. One audience member made a comment about Vance hiding behind her children, after she explained that she needs to make time to see her family in between sessions as well as constituents.

“I’m not hiding behind my children, and I do take this job seriously,” Vance said. “… I want to make something very clear. I have put myself into this job for you. I love Homer and I love this district. But my children still need to see their mom.”

Meeting attendees asked Vance to be more communicative before and during the legislative sessions, rather than after all the votes are cast and decisions made. They asked for ways to get their questions answered and points made ahead of big votes.

Others said they would like it if Vance would participate in the legislative update call-ins put on by KBBI public radio, which Sen. Gary Stevens currently participates in. Vance said she sends legislative update shorts to local radio stations to be used if they wish. KBBI reported it reached out to Vance asking her to participate in the weekly legislative updates and that she declined.

“It would be great if we could have discussions before we get to this point,” said resident Candy Rohrer. “I would just like more conversation, and more of an opportunity to be a part of it, because we need to build bridges, and I don’t think we’re building bridges just across the whole state. And I think you could be a bridge builder as well.”

Vance said she agreed communication could be better. She pointed to the fact that she has one staffer, while other representatives and Stevens (who as a senator represents two house districts) have more. She said she would work on providing more opportunities for constituents to weigh in.

In briefing the community members on what happened during legislative sessions this year, Vance spoke about the contentious line-item veto to benefits for low income seniors, which Dunleavy originally vetoed but was eventually restored. She let people know that seniors eligible for that program would start receiving checks again soon and that they would also get back pay for the period of time the program funding was vetoed.

Vance said she fought against that particular veto and advocated for funding for seniors, because keeping senior interests at the forefront was one of her campaign promises. At the same time, Vance said she would be in favor of talking about a temporary moratorium on letting any new seniors enroll in the benefits program until the state has more revenue to fund it.

Vance also spoke in favor of funding for education, reminding attendees that funding for early education had been restored after Dunleavy vetoed it. Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board member Zen Kelly spoke up and said that, while the funding for the base student allocation (or funding for K-12 education) was not vetoed this year, he worries that it could be on the chopping block in the future. He urged Vance to be part of the conversation on a local school district level.

“My concern is that in fiscal year (2021), the funding of the (base student allocation) … is now going to be open to having the governor veto (it),” he said. “… What I want to do is invite you in October to come attend the public budget forums. Or, I chair the finance committee for the school district, so if you have questions about how our school district funding is allocated, reach out. We’re happy to include you in the process and make sure that you’re well informed of what we do with the money that we receive.”

On the subject of education, Vance also spoke about a bill she worked on and introduced this year that would give school districts the option to come under the umbrella of the state’s health insurance plan in order to save money. The rising cost of health care is a constant sticking point in the school district’s negotiations with teacher unions. Vance said she had local principals and Assistant Superintendent Dave Jones look at the bill before she submitted it.

Asked about the proposed Pebble Mine project, Vance said she does not have a position on the actual project itself.

“But I’m not going to commit. Right now, my commitment is obeying the rule of law and due process,” Vance said while an audience member continually interrupted her. “That’s where I’m going to stand.”

Asked what new forms of revenue she supports, Vance spoke about making Alaska a more attractive place for business.

“We need new money flowing in the state, and that can come in many forms,” she said. “And until we have that, we’re not going to solve any of our problems because we don’t have enough money within the state…. whether it’s individual income tax or whatever it is, we can’t tax enough to pay at the rate that we are spending.”

When asked by a meeting attendee, Vance said she’s open to looking at oil and gas taxes. However, she said she still won’t support a state income tax going forward because it would contradict her campaign platform.

Several people in attendance said they disagreed with that stance and advocated for her being open to multiple forms of revenue, including taxes.

“If it were to come to me voting for a state income tax, at this point I would vote ‘no,’” she said.

People in attendance also told Vance they would be happy with a lesser PFD amount if it meant more money would be available to pay for things like schools and other state services. Again, she said she would not go against what she ran on during her campaign.

After the meeting in Homer, Vance went on to provide two more legislative updates in Kasilof and Ninilchik that week.

Reach Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board member Zen Kelly speaks to Rep. Sarah Vance (R-Homer) during a legislative update meeting she held Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019 at Captain’s Coffee in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board member Zen Kelly speaks to Rep. Sarah Vance (R-Homer) during a legislative update meeting she held Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019 at Captain’s Coffee in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Rep. Sarah Vance (R-Homer) addresses a crowd of people during a legislative update meeting Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019 at Captain’s Coffee in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Rep. Sarah Vance (R-Homer) addresses a crowd of people during a legislative update meeting Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019 at Captain’s Coffee in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

More in News

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks at a press conference on the budget on April 7, 2020, in Juneau, Alaska. He later met with reporters to speak about 22 new COVID-19 cases reported on Tuesday. (Photo by Austin McDaniel/Office of the Governor)
Alaska sees surge in COVID-19 cases;No new deaths or hospitalizations

As a public service to keep people informed on the COVID-19 pandemic,… Continue reading

COVID-19. (Courtesy the CDC)
Sixth COVID-19 death reported for Alaska

Editor’s note: As a public service to keep people informed on the… Continue reading

The budget is passed and lawmakers have gone home

Now, it’s time to wait and see.

Nathan Simpson of Dutch Boy Landscaping on Nov. 14, 2019, installs colored lights on the tree by Homer Electric Association in Homer, Alaska. The big tree by HEA is one of Homer’s landmark holiday decorated trees. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Candidates announced for HEA board elections

Completed mail-in ballots must be received by 5 p.m. on May 6, 2020 in order to be counted.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy (center) speaks with Edward Graham (left) of Samaritan’s Purse as two other Samaritan’s Purse staff members look on, Monday, April 6, 2020 at Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage, Alaska. Dunleavy met the crew and staff of the Samaritan’s Purse DC-8 at the airport as they offloaded thousands of pounds of medical supplies bound for rural Alaska. (Photo courtesy Office of the Governor)
4th COVID-19 case reported in Soldotna

As a public service to keep people informed on the COVID-19 pandemic,… Continue reading

Aspen Hotel chain Owner George Swift cuts a ribbon officially opening the most recent building in Homer, Alaska, during a grand opening ceremony on May 29, 2019. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Trends: Tourism industry takes hit from COVID-19

‘Completely decimated travel in Alaska’

COVID-19. (Courtesy the CDC)
Anchor Point man dies out of state from COVID-19

A resident of Anchor Point has died from COVID-19, the illness caused… Continue reading

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks during a Friday, April 3, 2020 press conference in the Atwood Building in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Office of the Governor)
State recommends wearing face coverings in public

Number of Kenai Peninsula cases grows to 10; state tally rises to 157

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink participates via teleconference in the state’s daily press briefing on the new coronavirus on Monday, March 30, 2020. (Courtesy photo)
State changes website, COVID-19 reporting

Seward reports second COVID-19 case

Most Read