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Tiffany Zulkosky Talks Priorities For Upcoming Legislation Session

Christine Trudeau

Tiffany Zulkosky, a Bethel Democrat, successfully held on to her seat representing House District 38, but Western Alaska's representation in the House majority is in flux right now, thanks to a tight race in Fairbanks. The battle over House District 1 could determine whether or not Zulkosky will be in the House majority.

Zulkosky's priorities will be public safety and protecting the budget for programs affecting rural Alaska.

"Not knowing what Governor-elect Dunleavy’s agenda will look like or what his budget priorities look like are something we have to wait and see, but making sure we are protecting programs that are so essential in rural Alaska, things like public safety funding, Medicaid funding, [and] education funding," Zulkosky said.              

Zulkosky beat her Republican challenger, Darren Deacon from Upper Kalskag, by a generous margin: 10 percent. She vowed to protect vital health and education services and to boost public safety resources.

But as a Democrat, Zulkosky will have her work cut out for her. She may still be able to join a bi-partisan majority if one is put together in the House, but Republicans will control the Senate and the Governor’s seat. And Governor-elect Mike Dunleavy promised to cut state spending as part of his campaign platform.

Zulkosky speaks of budget priorities in terms of resources and equity.

"They get a lot of resources in areas of the state that we don’t have in rural Alaska," Zulkosky said. "[We] are protecting a very basic level of resources in the operating budget; it's so critical and it’s not just about protecting that same amount year after year, it’s about moving the needle in the right direction to make sure we get meaningful increases."

Zulkosky also wants to call more attention to the nationwide issue of missing Indigenous women and girls. A recent report from the Urban Indian Health Institute showed a lack of good law enforcement data concerning these missing women. 

Alaska ranked in the top four states for these underreported cases, and it's already well known that Alaska Native women face the highest rates of sexual assault and abuse in the state. This is especially important for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region, which has the most tribes in Alaska.

"As an Alaska Native woman serving in the Legislature, that is not acceptable," Zulkosky said. "I’m really interested in seeing what results come from that research, and what opportunities are opened for us. As we consider strengthening public safety in rural Alaska, how do we also make sure we’re protecting our Alaska Native women."

The race in Fairbanks is set for a recount on Friday; the legislative session begins January 15.