Issues

Jobs and Opportunity Matter

Alaskans deserve a governor who will end Alaska’s recession and work to create good-paying jobs. Governor Dunleavy has killed 6,000 jobs just by ducking our fiscal crisis, emptying the state’s savings accounts, and demanding a decimated construction budget. Alaska’s austerity construction budget, which receives roughly a quarter of state support than the average construction budget from 2006-2015, has taken away careers, harmed businesses, and left less money to circulate through our urban and rural economies. It has also resulted in Alaska’s roads and infrastructure, including its main port, unmaintained across the state. It has prevented needed energy projects, including those renewable energy projects that would lower the high cost of electricity and heating in Alaska. 

A one-time influx of federal money will fix some of this. But past neglect tells us we need a leader who’ll do more than just leave people out of work while waiting for federal help from the President and Congress.

Les believes in a strong University of Alaska system.


Help Businesses Succeed

Less money in Alaska’s economy, fewer workers to spend money at local businesses, and a budget crisis Governor Dunleavy failed to address prevents businesses from locating in Alaska. The governor has stalled needed job growth. He’s harmed families and communities. Today, Alaska has a maintenance and repair backlog of roughly $2 billion in state and University of Alaska buildings and infrastructure. Les will work to put people and businesses across the state to work on these projects.


Better Schools & Universal Pre-K: More success, higher graduation rates

As a legislator, Les Gara filed and sponsored legislation to lower class sizes. Students deserve individual attention to help them succeed, not overcrowded classrooms. To end the annual fight over education, Les has always proposed keeping school funding consistent with the cost of inflation. Students deserve good teachers, not battles over how many teachers they’ll lose the next year.

After years of increasing class sizes, Alaskans are losing faith in the state’s commitment to public education. As governor, Les will work to improve our schools, reduce class sizes, and increase student opportunity and success.

And, like other important public employees, teachers, police, and firefighters deserve a return to the right to a pension. Since a radical change to the law in 2005, which Les voted against, new employees no longer have any pension benefits (SB 141). With stagnant pay, Alaska has lost a needed incentive that would help us attract and retain our best professionals.

Les Gara is the only candidate who has sponsored legislation to return Alaska to a fair, needed pension system, which should be crafted to be both reliable and affordable (e.g., HB 54, 2009).

Les Gara’s opponents have different records on public education.

Governor Dunleavy pushed over a quarter billion dollars in education cuts once he took office; funds that would have put 2,600 teachers and educators out of work and out of the schools where we need them help students succeed. In 2016, then-Governor Walker eliminated $32 million in education funds for the 2015-2016 school year that had been passed as law in 2014. In addition, Walker vetoed roughly $55 million more in public education funds in 2016. Les Gara believes smaller class sizes increase academic achievement, and that continually-increasing class sizes steals opportunity from students.

An example of Les’ commitment to early childhood education is the state’s Pre-K program, which helps working parents of young children. Studies show that viable pre-kindergarten programs increase student achievement and graduation rates. It also leads to lower unemployment, higher wages, and fewer people on expensive public benefits and in jail. Simply put, Pre-K saves money and increases opportunity.

Les Gara has supported statewide voluntary Pre-K my whole legislative career, and fought opponents of Pre-K to successfully expand what Alaska offers. As governor, Les will  work to ensure Alaska finally joins the roughly 40 states that offer statewide Pre-K to parents who believe that’s what’s best for their children.

Pre-K programs in Alaska are possible, both in and outside a traditional classroom setting, through the Parents As Teachers Pre-K program. Les started the push for Alaska-supported Parents As Teachers Pre-K, and helped launch its success.

Les Gara believes Alaska’s leadership should act to improve student success so that all children enter school ready to read and ready to learn.

Families are leaving Alaska, in part because they see no commitment to public education. Les Gara will help make Alaska a place in which people want to live, not leave.


Protect Fish Runs, Not Wealthy Pebble Mine Executives

Les Gara promises as governor to drop the current Governor Mike Dunleavy’s lawsuit filed on behalf of the Canadian Pebble Mine owners. As an avid fisherman who’s travelled throughout Rural and Urban Alaska, from the North Slope to Southeast Alaska, Les knows Alaska needs to protect its commercial, sport and subsistence fishing and hunting, as well as access to those resources.

Fishing binds together Alaskans of all backgrounds. Governor Dunleavy has chosen to side with the Pebble Mine owners, a threat to Bristol Bay’s pristine wild salmon and trout waters.

Les Gara voted to support other mineral mines operating across Alaska; but Pebble Mine is the wrong mine in the wrong place.

And in the face of 2021 chum and silver crashes in many rural communities, Les Gara will ensure Alaska has the research to take action as quickly and responsibly as possible.

Strong research matters, and listening to people matters, especially in communities that rely on runs that have crashed. We deserve much better research on Outside factory trawler bycatch impacts on our fisheries. We deserve better than an ADF&G Commissioner who says, still in 2021, that he hasn’t “given … a great deal of thought” to whether dragging the ocean floor harms our fish and crab habitat, and that he’s relying heavily on entities other than the state to fund needed studies we still don’t have on chum and other fish populations that have crashed. While we’ve raised the issue of bottom trawler bycatch throughout this campaign, in published Op Ed’s across the state, and at a November Governor’s Forum, only after all that did the Governor, after 3 years in Office, finally propose to “look” at the with a “task force” on Nov. 18. 2021.

It was wrong to see an emergency on the Yukon and Kuskokwim and other rivers, and take a seat behind businesses that are fortunately donating fish.  And then put false labels on the fish boxes saying they were donated by the state. That’s campaign work, not leadership. The state’s original offer of help on this effort was a paltry $75,000, or half the salary of just one of the Governor’s political appointees.

Fishing binds Alaskans of all backgrounds together.


Support Alaska’s Tourism Economy

In 2021, Governor Dunleavy, at a time businesses could afford it least, defunded needed tourism marketing dollars. Les Gara co-sponsored legislation to help Alaska’s tourism and hospitality businesses create a vibrant tourism ad campaign. Visitors to Alaska bring $2.2 billion to the state each year, and create both seasonal and permanent jobs for residents. Les Gara supports the development and maintenance of a vibrant, sustainable tourism and hospitality industry.

Alaskans should have the right to fish, hunt, and enjoy the outdoors.


A Woman’s Right To Choose: Government Should Never Interfere With A Woman’s Private Health Decisions

As a legislator, Les Gara has always supported a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions, and always will as governor. Gara’s main opponents have used their attorneys general, during their respective terms as governor, to sue for a rollback on choices in healthcare decisions.

The choices Alaskans make in the 2022 election come down to choice: Will we protect a woman’s right to make her own, very personal, health care decisions? Alaska State law will be a last line of defense for upholding a woman’s right to choose – very soon based on recent U.S. Supreme Court actions threatening that right, and an anti-choice Supreme Court majority.

Les Gara will not appoint judges who would re-interpret the Constitution to take away this right. He will not allow the Legislature to roll back these rights, unlike his opponents. A woman’s right to choose is part of her constitutional right to privacy.

Additionally, Les Gara disagreed with both of his opponents when they passed extreme legislation allowing politicians to interfere with the ability of schools to teach safe sex education; instead siding with women’s rights and pro-choice groups. That 2016 law, HB 156, was written by Governor Mike Dunleavy, and enacted without a veto by then-Governor Walker. Les voted and fought against HB 156. Allowing politicians to interfere with curriculum about avoiding unwanted pregnancies is wrong, and harms young women and girls.

Finally, it is past time for insurance companies to provide long-term birth control prescriptions so women don’t have to  keep going back to their pharmacist every few months to obtain the birth control they choose and need.


Ducking and Spending Alaska’s Savings Hasn’t Solved The Budget Deficit

Mike Dunleavy irresponsibly spent Alaska’s savings for nearly a decade, both as state senator and then as governor. As a result, $17 billion in state savings have been lost. Dunleavy said in his 2021 budget plan that he’ll impose “$1.233 billion” in taxes next year, hidden what those taxes will be, and changed his position on multiple occasions (December 11, 2020 Gov. Dunleavy “Budget Overview and 10-Year Plan). Six months later he shifted to the biggest raid in Permanent Fund history, and tried to take $3 billion more from the fund than the law allows. He promised he’d only do that “one time” . . . for now.

Les Gara will not ignore Alaska’s budget crisis. 


A Living Minimum Wage For Alaska Workers

Les Gara co-sponsored legislation to require a $15/hour minimum wage through a process to “phase-in” with meaningful but gradual minimum wage increases to allow businesses to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. He’ll work with Alaskans and businesses to help workers and avoid hurting struggling businesses.

Les Gara believes in a living wage for Alaskans who work hard to pay rent and put food on their tables. 


Giving Away Billions of Dollars in Oil Company Corporate Welfare Is Wrong

Giving away money that belongs to Alaskans, for Alaska’s oil, is welfare for the wealthy, and it’s wrong.

A critical element of any sustainable fiscal plan should be an end to unnecessary oil company tax credits, which corporations get even if they reduce their investments here and spend their billions in annual Alaska oil profits outside Alaska.

Whether it’s good schools, a funded PFD, construction jobs, or a university system that creates jobs, these things are in jeopardy as long as the money Alaskans need to pay for them is given away to multinational corporations. Giving to the wealthiest at the expense of seniors, children, and the economy is not leadership.


Les Has Acted On Climate Change

In 2010, Les Gara wrote and passed amendments (with Haines Republican Bill Thomas as co-sponsor) to save money and battle climate change. Today, all state, university and school buildings must be built to cost-effective energy efficiency standards. That saves money, and reduces the emission of greenhouse gases.

Les will continue to advocate for legislation that recognizes the ongoing climate crisis and acts to reduce the effects of climate change in Alaska.


Les Gara Will Bridge the Rural/Urban Divide

The late Representative Mike Kelly once called Les Gara the “rural representative from Anchorage.” Les will never pit community against community, or urban residents against rural residents. Alaskans should prosper together.

As a legislator Les represented the entire state, siding with efforts to bring 21st century sanitation and water treatment to rural Alaska, and worked hard to expand police coverage in nearly 100 communities that currently have none.

Les Gara supports the Alaska Marine Highway System, and its vital role for bridging people and businesses in the state’s coastal areas.

Additionally, Les Gara never once threatened rural Power Cost Equalization payments, unlike Governor Dunleavy, who tried to spend the $1 billion PCE fund in 2019, and again in 2021 with executive action Alaska’s courts ultimately ruled was illegal.

Rural Jobs, Education and Public Safety

Alaska must do more to provide law enforcement in small communities, where victims sometimes wait days for physical protection from an assailant. Educators, first responders, law enforcement, utility workers,  and other professionals in contact with the public are needed in their respective regions and should be provided training. Collaborative effort builds stronger communities.

The solution to our budget crisis and recession isn’t taking from one part of the state to benefit another. It’s working together so all Alaskans can live with dignity and respect.

The “Rural Representative from Anchorage”.


Equal Rights For All Alaskans

All Alaskans deserve equal rights. Les Gara is proud to stand with Alaskans to end discrimination in housing and employment, believing all have the right to live as equal citizens.

Les Gara’s opponents still prescribe to the outdated view that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. While Les respects former Governor Walker, he disagrees with his unsupportive views on equal rights, and strongly objected when he allowed the then-attorney general to sue against the right of same-sex couples to get married in Alaska.

Les Gara will demand equality regardless of race, color or religion, and regardless of who one loves. He has sponsored legislation supporting equal LGBTQ rights, and will always stand with Alaskans for equal treatment under the law. “Liberty and justice for all” isn’t merely a phrase to recite. It’s a call to action.


A Strong PFD to Bank On – Not False, Unfunded Permanent Fund Dividend Promises

This governor has changed his promises from a “statutory PFD” promised during the campaign down to a 50%, non-statutory PFD plan, which paid $1,500 less in 2021 than the “statutory PFD” he promised Alaskans.

Les Gara tried to override Governor Walker’s PFD veto in 2016. As a state senator, Governor Dunleavy voted to support that veto. When asked to vote for a the Joint House and Senate session the Alaska Constitution requires to override a veto, he voted “No” along party lines, blocked the override vote, and left the PFD veto in place.

Les pushed for and filed legislation to pay for a larger PFD, and in 2018 filed House Bill 381, which would have returned to a statutory PFD payment formula with the revenue the state would receive if the oil tax giveaway Governor Dunleavy voted for as a Senator in 2013 (and Les voted to stop), was ended.

Additionally, Les Gara will end roughly $1 billion in unjustifiable oil company tax subsidies, or “tax credits.” Without that fair oil revenue, Governor Dunleavy has pitted Alaskans who support schools, renewable energy, a PFD, construction jobs, and senior and children’s support against each other to fight over the crumbs.

For more than three years, Governor Dunleavy has played shell games with the PFD, promising a $6,000 PFD, then the “statutory PFD formula” (roughly $3,850 in 2021), and now something less.

Republican legislators in Dunleavy’s own party have asked him for a rational plan to pay for a PFD, and he’s refused. His refusal to propose the “funding” part of the PFD is why it fell to $980 last year, or $5,000 less than he originally promised.

His only “plan” has been to slap together a last-minute, dangerous $3 billion raid on the Permanent Fund – the biggest in Alaska history. He promises he’d only raid the Permanent Fund “one time” to pay for Government so there’s money left over for a PFD, and then offers no way to pay for future PFDs.

Les Gara believes it is wrong to give away Alaska’s oil wealth to large corporations. 


The Governor Should Lead To End COVID In Alaska

Les Gara is a proud husband of Kelly, a frontline hospital employee who has treated COVID patients. Unlike Alaska’s current governor, Les believes in accurate, timely COVID-19 information and education that follows national and global guidelines for prevention and treatment of the virus through masking, physical distancing, and vaccination.

Alaska should rank first in positive prevention.

The Governor has chosen politics over action, and tried to appeal to those who oppose these effective measures by being intentionally equivocal on both, and not wearing a mask himself at crowded indoor political functions. Following one of those functions he got COVID himself. A responsible Governor would have admitted their mistake, and used it as a teaching moment. The Governor chose to avoid the press instead of explaining how wearing a mask would have helped protect him and people exposed to him.

During the worst COVID spike in death and hospitalization this summer the Governor chose to side with a small segment of his supporters opposed to an immediate, life-saving limited Health Care Facility Emergency Declaration. He chose votes over acting quickly to help gravely ill patients, some facing possible death. He refused to act on policies to reduce overcrowding and state bureaucracy – policies that hospitals in crisis were pleading for. He could have done most or possibly everything they asked for, immediately, with the stroke of a pen in July, but refused to.

Bills are fine and could have been filed after a Governor’s Health Declaration, on the first day the August 2021 Special Session started. Bills alone take too long when we’re faced with a public health emergency. He refused calls to act in July and August as Alaska’s Sumer and Fall COVID crisis was escalating. He waited until September when the fire was killing more people, and overcrowding more hospitals with longer emergency room waits.

Thanks to hospital and health care workers and leaders who spoke loudly in public and in the press, public pressure forced action on at least some of these needed measures.

Rather than doing the needed work to protect Alaskans, the Governor spent most of 2021 sending out videos from his office once every few months, ambivalently saying people should choose whether or not to be vaccinated. In August he stoked opposition to safe vaccines, making heated, false Nazi Germany and “forced vaccination” comparisons to voluntary, safe vaccinations. Using heated rhetoric to appease voters who haven’t yet chosen a safe vaccination isn’t leadership. Those charged words followed a simple press question about why he wouldn’t just strongly and clearly urge people to get a safe vaccination to protect themselves, and help slow a raging pandemic.

A responsible Governor would also have spent 2021 travelling the state, bringing experts and other trusted leaders to local communities to speak about how to end this pandemic. Carefully and safely travelling with different experts of all political and ethnic backgrounds, who’d resonate in particular communities, would stop more hospitalizations and infections than a few videos sent from the comfort of the Governor’s Office. The goal is to convince people to take the actions we need to slow this pandemic. Going from community to community, with leaders and experts local residents trust is more effective than sitting in an office sending out an equivocal video every few months.

A successful battle against this deadly pandemic requires work, not politics.