Hello Seniors, “Seniors in waiting” and Veterans,
Following is the response from Lt. Governor candidates to the Senior Citizen Survey. It is terrific that the , Edie Grunwald, Sharon Jackson and Lynn Gattis.
ALL support the Senior Citizens of Alaska. Please read their replies, form a few questions of your own and ask them on the campaign trail.
They express their opinions in different ways, but one thing is sure: With a one of these folks in the Lt. Governor seat, Seniors will have a voice.
Dear Candidate for Lt. Governor of Alaska,
I have prepared brief series of questions for Lt. Gubernatorial candidates regarding their views and support of Senior citizens. This particular questionnaire also highlights Senior citizens of the Kenai Peninsula Borough. Your answers and comments will be published without edit. At the end of the article I will include my Senior Citizen perspective. If space does not permit, the article will be released in two parts.
Senior citizens are a significant portion of the Alaska population. When motivated we can and do vote. This election is important to every Alaska Senior and I assure we will vote.
- The Alaska Commission on Aging (ACoA) has an 11-member sitting commission with 6 members from the Anchorage bowl area and ZERO from the Kenai Peninsula Borough (KPB). Governor Walker has declined to appoint a commissioner from the KPB. The KPB has over 14,000 Seniors representing 24% of the borough population. Will you, if elected Lt. Governor commit to encouraging and supporting the Governor to make the next appointment from the KPB the Kenai Peninsula Borough.
Yes or No? If No, Why?
Edie Grunwald: YES
Sharon Jackson: Absolutely
Lynn Gattis: Yes, because ALL parts of the state should be represented. I had a bill that would have forced the same for our University of Alaska-Board of Regents. It passed overwhelmingly in the House and Senate. Governor Walker vetoed it. He did NOT tell me why. All parts of this state should be represented, we have different needs in different areas.
- Under Governor Walker, the commission on aging department budget was cut by 40%, reducing staff to only 3 people. This cut of approximately $200,000 represents a fractional amount compared to the current Governors propensity to contract millions of dollars to consulting services. Even the KPB District 31 House representative, Paul Seaton took the step of reducing the ACoA budget while asking $500,000 for a ridiculous Vitamin D study, allocated to political friends.
Will you, if elected as the next Lt. Governor, commit to work with the Governor establish a position of Senior Citizen Ombudsman (or similar) to be the Governors direct contact with the Senior Community and the various agencies responsible for their well-being? If appropriate would you ask the Governor to include such a position under the office of Lt. Governor? Keeping in mind that a Senior in that position will have a significantly lower cost and would add a presence for Seniors while still maintaining the reduced ACoA budget.
Yes or No and if No, Why?
Edie Grunwald: We need to address adequately funding the commission on aging. Senior citizen is a growing sector of Alaska’s demographics. It’s wonderful and we need to keep it this way! It only makes sense to have the demographics of our communities represented and ensure our seniors are a priority. I love the idea of a Senior Citizen Ombudsman! And it would be an honor for the Lt Governor to play a role with partnering with Ombudsman to advocate and address issues on behalf of our seniors.
Sharon Jackson: Yes, I will ask to have this position under the Lt Governor so that I can be sure the voices of our senior community are represented. I believe our seniors are the cornerstone of our existence and Statehood.
Lynn Gattis: Yes, I have a front row seat into many of the pitfalls (at least in the Mat-Su) that the elderly face-my aging mother and step-father. We need folks that understand and recognize the needs.
- Over the past several years politicians have attempted to eliminate the state mandated Senior Citizen Property Tax Exemption. The elimination of this exemption could have a devasting effect on the Senior population and encourage the outflow of Seniors from our state causing economic harm to the entire state.
Will you commit, as Lt. Governor to advocate against any legislative attempt to eliminate the Senior Citizen Property Tax Exemption Mandate.
Yes or No? If No, Why.
Edie Grunwald: Yes
Sharon Jackson: Yes, I will with no hesitation.
Lynn Gattis: Yes, I will, we know, keeping our seniors in their homes is simply less expensive and let’s face it, we are all more comfortable in our own beds. That being said, as our population ages, we must look at other options that are also affordable and we CANNOT just pull the rug out from folks who depend on safety nets.
- Seniors citizens on fixed income are one of the most affected groups of the PFD reduction. Many Seniors counted on the PFD check for heating, food, that once in a year vacation and quality time with relatives. There have been all kinds of excuses for reducing the PFD amount. Mostly bogus, but all political in nature. Those amounts still sit in the state treasury. The loss of life quality to Seniors and the economic devastation to the state by loss of that annual economic boost is contrary to sound fiscal policy.
Will you, if elected Lt. Governor, endorse and advocate restoration of the PFD to full value and return to residents the amounts withheld?
Yes or No? If No, Why?
Edie Grunwald: Yes – Already a priority for Edie Grunwald, Lt Gov candidate.
Sharon Jackson: Yes. I believe every cent taken should be returned.
Lynn Gattis: Yes, as you may remember, when I was on house finance, I refused to let the PFD restructure bill out of committee. Since it didn’t leave the committee, it certainly couldn’t pass. The Governor then took ½ of the PFD that year. We would not even have this conversation if that did not happen.
- Many Seniors are Veterans and many Veterans are Seniors. How will your administration support and keep the public aware of both the needs and contributions made by these groups to the State of Alaska? It is important that we do not forget. From Attu to Iraq, Alaska Veterans and Senior Veterans have served our country and state.
Edie Grunwald: Senior citizens have so much to offer and we need to ensure our senior veterans are recognized and maintain a quality of life that is desirable to the individual. The demographics are changing in Alaska to include a growing population of senior citizens and veterans. Many senior veterans are not aware that they may be eligible for benefits to help pay for long-term care, monetary assistance and other programs because they do not know these benefits exist. Additional senior citizen housing options and levels of care are needed, and the private sector has an opportunity to start meeting these needs on the market.
I welcome and encourage ideas toward success options. I plan to be actively engaged.
I’m running because SB 91 must be repealed, our criminal justice system MUST be reformed, and offenders held accountable. Reducing crime will allow our state actually SHRINK the huge government we have, reducing our budget without taxing Alaskans or ever needing to touch the PFD which can remain in the historical split which has worked since it’s inception.
Work to get Medicaid under control with limits, transparency, options, incentives, and back to its original intent for elderly and disabled.
Sharon Jackson: I am a veteran and my husband is a Vietnam Veteran and a senior. I know without a doubt we would not be where we are today without the work and hardships of our seniors and they should and will always be honored and provided for. That is the least we can do!
Lynn Gattis: Certainly keeping a good relationship[ with our Federal delegation is important. Remembering our own roots will be part of that (Thank goodness for my dad and brothers as veterans) Really going to bat for them now is vital.
Although these are not the only concerns of Alaska and Kenai Peninsula Borough Seniors, they do represent critical areas. I look forward to your response so the we may better inform the Senior population of your positions
Please call or email with any questions
Thank you in advance for your consideration and response.
Peter T. Zuyus
Senior Citizen Advocate