State Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky said that her biggest accomplishments have been fighting the governor’s budget vetoes to protect rural Alaska, and the creation of the House Special Committee on Tribal Affairs. That committee led the effort to establish November as Alaska Heritage Month. Zulkosky’s concern for rural Alaska's tribes was evident during her first year in office.
“in my very first session,” Zulkosky said, “when I was appointed to the Legislature, I authored legislation that would reinstate village corporations that were dissolved if they had delayed or missed state filings.”
Zulkosky also pointed to her work protecting funding for the Village Public Safety Officer program, among other things. She said that as long at the governor refuses to consider other sources of revenue, legislators will be stuck making tough choices because the state’s main revenue source continues to be oil. With oil prices down, that means there is less money to cover basic state services.
“The legislature has been cutting funding by over 40% in the last seven years. Anybody who says they can promise a full dividend without any sort of response to the funding of state programs is simply not being honest about the condition of our economy and the condition of our revenue,” said Zulkosky.
Zulkosky said that unlike rural communities, urban areas have other options for funding local services. For example, residents in Alaska’s cities have local school districts funded by local taxes. Losing state funds to create a bigger Permanent Fund Dividend harms those schools less than those without a local tax base. She said that cuts in state funding have a disproportionate impact on rural Alaska.
“Cutting funding for our schools, cutting Medicaid travel, taking away money for our VPSO programs, draining the Power Cost Equalization Fund, which would ultimately end the program in one fiscal year and would actually increase the cost of living in our communities,” said Zulkosky, listing some of the services important to rural Alaska. “And so while Alaskans may receive a one-time check in the mail, the first place to always lose out is rural Alaska because we don’t have any municipal or borough funded programs that can step in to provide support where state programs are cut.”
The entire Coffee at KYUK discussion with Zulkosky can be heard on KYUK’s website. Her opponent in the race for Alaska House District 38, Willy Keppel, declined to be interviewed on Coffee at KYUK