A potential new face in the Alaska House of Representatives is a very familiar face in Kenai. Rick Koch recently retired as Kenai’s city manager and now is seeking the House District 30 seat, along with three other Republicans. The Alaska primary election is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 16.
Alaska has a lot of financial issues to address, but for House District 30 candidate Rick Koch, a spending cap has to come first.
“Only after that is accomplished and the citizens of Alaska have seen that we have taken the measures that they would like to see us take in reducing the budget, then we look at other sources of revenue,” Koch said.
Koch says he’s built relationships in Juneau while working as Kenai’s city manager, as well as serving on the Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority and Alaska State Housing Authority. He says familiarity will help him be effective even as a freshman representative.
His first priority is reigning in state spending. While the governor and Legislature have cut the capital budget, he says the operating budget still needs to be trimmed, and the state must stop covering shortfalls with the Constitutional Budget Reserve. He would like to set a spending cap that grows 2 or 3 percent a year so the state can budget for the future.
Once spending is capped, it will be time to consider increases in revenue, he says. For Koch, a sales tax isn’t appealing, since that’s been the purview of municipalities. And he says any new tax should be carefully considered to make sure it’s worth the cost of implementation.
“You create a fairly significant bureaucracy to support those kinds of revenue-generating programs. You’ve got to have lot of people to collect taxes and administer the program, whether it’s an income tax or sales tax,” Koch said.
Koch says he would consider tapping permanent fund earnings, but only after spending is capped, and only with involvement by voters.
Construction of a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to Nikiski is an important project, but the current approach needs to be rethought, Koch says. For one thing, the state should not be a majority owner or operator of the project.
“We have as partners the most effective oil and gas companies in the world. Those relationships have been strained, and hopefully can be healthy in future,” Koch said.
Koch would like to place Alaska back on the economic footing it had when he was a young man starting his career.
“These days Alaskans, and certainly young Alaskans, don’t have the breadth of opportunities that I had. And I want to see those kinds of opportunities returned to our state,” Koch said.
More information on Rick Koch is available on his Facebook page.