Rep. Fansler Lays Out Position On Taxes, Opioid Disaster, Oil And Gas Subsidies, And More

Feb 21, 2017

Representative Zach Fansler meets with District 38 constituents at an open house meeting at the Kuskokwim University Campus on February 11, 2017.
Credit Katie Basile / KYUK

District 38 state Rep. Zach Fansler laid out his position on proposed taxes, the Governor’s opioid disaster declaration, changes to oil and gas subsidies, and more during a live KYUK call-in show with constituents on Friday.

Fansler said he supports House Bill 115, the proposed fiscal solution for the state from the House Finance Committee. The bill combines earnings from the Permanent Fund with an income tax to generate state revenue, while using a formula to maintain a Permanent Fund Dividend. 

“This is something that I’m very supportive of,” Fansler said, referring to the state income tax, “and something that I’ve heard from folks over and over in the region about. That this is really the fair way to make sure all Alaskans are giving with equity.”

Fansler expects to see those revenues flowing back to help the region.

“We have water and sewer issues. We have a lot of issues with erosion. We’re on the forefront of climate change, and the only way to get these services is to raise more money.”

A proposed tax the Representative has not made up his mind about is House Bill 60 and Senate Bill 25, a bill to triple the state’s motor fuel tax over the next two years from a national low of eight cents per gallon to 24 cents per gallon by July 2018. The tax has not been raised in almost 50 years.

“It’s probably something that does need to happen,” Fansler said. “But I think that we need to make sure we are raising it in a way that doesn’t price people out of living here on the YK Delta.”

The tax would go into a designated fund to repair state roads, airports, and ferries. Fansler said he will need to hear from constituents to make his decision on the proposed increase.

Gov. Bill Walker's disaster declaration for the state’s opioid epidemic earned applause from Fansler. The Governor said his orders will require legislation to address the epidemic on all fronts, and Rep. Fansler had some ideas.

“We need to make sure we’re fully funding these programs that are in place already,” said Fansler, “and we need to make sure we’re passing legislation that is intelligent and that is going to get critical services such as rehab programs, such as return to work programs, things like that, that are going to help people kick the habit and move on with their lives, and stay away from it in the long-term.”

Fansler said he met with the Governor last week to discuss ways to cut off the supply of illegal opioids and heroin to bush communities.

Reforming the way the state taxes the oil and gas industry is an issue Fansler campaigned on, and he says he doesn't think House Bill 111 on that issue goes far enough.

“I think it’s a good first step,” he said. “It’s important to note that it doesn’t immediately make a large scale difference.”

Fansler said it's too early for him to take a position on Sen. Lyman Hoffman’s proposed Senate Bill 18, a bill to create a new kind of borough that would have taxing power to build energy infrastructure.

“To lower energy costs, I applaud that. We’ll see as this bill goes on if this is a vehicle to do that,” the Representative said.

Sen. Hoffman says the bill will likely see substantial changes made in committee. 

Senate Bill 91, which passed last year, overhauled the criminal justice system and, according to some critics, has made consequences too light for serious offenses. Fansler said that there were no specific changes to the bill that he supported at this time, but he’s open to suggestions from constituents.

Lastly, Fansler said that he supports tribes developing their tribal courts, and he wants his office to act as a clearing house on that issue.

KYUK will host another call-in show with Rep. Fansler next week.