Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


Kreiss-Tomkins calls rookie term 'gratifying'


With only a few months remaining in his first term, rookie House Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, said he has no intentions of stopping.

During a Monday interview, Kreiss-Tomkins said he will be running again this October, but he will no longer represent Haines due to redistricting.

“It’s a way to try to help make Alaska a better place. It’s immensely gratifying work,” Kreiss-Tomkins said. “There are huge numbers of problems to be solved.”

Items still on his to-do list included restoring education funding, crafting a more responsible capital budget and continuing to support the revitalization of Native languages.

Like fellow Sitkan Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, Kreiss-Tomkins didn’t have a rosy picture to paint for funding of Haines projects.

“It’s just going to get worse,” Kreiss-Tomkins said, pointing to the legislature’s plan to phase out municipal revenue sharing entirely by 2020.

Kreiss-Tomkins, who does not support reducing or eliminating revenue-sharing, said Railbelt legislators are pushing the program’s curtailment as a cost-cutting measure.

“People from the Railbelt support that because they sort of have less of a connection with the communities they represent,” Kreiss-Tomkins said. “Whereas (Stedman) and myself have relationships with a whole bunch of mayors and are much more intimately familiar with the finances of those communities and the importance revenue-sharing plays.”

The Haines Borough Assembly is talking about ramping up Juneau lobbying efforts, but Kreiss-Tomkins said that probably won’t do anything to get the town more funding.

“I’m not sure having a lobbyist would necessarily change anything,” he said.

Kreiss-Tomkins said one step toward restoring funding to communities is repealing SB 21, which gave tax cuts to oil companies in the hopes of stimulating investment and exploration.

Funding of large megaprojects including the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority and the Juneau Access Project are also siphoning money off other programs and projects.

“The fact is right now the legislature got a whole lot more conservative after the 2012 election,” Kreiss-Tomkins said. “So (they) cut revenue sharing, cut behavioral health, underfund education and fund these megaprojects that will have dubious payoffs.”

This session, Kreiss-Tomkins succeeded in helping local distiller Heather Shade pass a bill allowing Alaska distilleries to offer samples and sell their products on the premises.

After a Chamber of Commerce lunch in March, Shade pulled Kreiss-Tomkins aside and took him to Port Chilkoot Distillery in Fort Seward. “She showed me around and talked to me about some of the frustrations she had,” Kreiss-Tomkins said.

The laws, Kreiss-Tomkins said, were old and “dilapidated,” so he decided to co-sponsor a bill to change them.

“She can’t give away samples. She can’t sell any product from the distillery. Basically, we passed a bill that makes the same laws that apply to craft breweries apply to craft distilleries,” Kreiss-Tomkins said.

Kreiss-Tomkins said he was also glad his bill, HB 216, passed. The bill, which was largely symbolic, officially recognized 20 Alaska Native languages and put them on par with English.

“It acknowledges that Alaska Native languages are just as Alaskan as English. It means a tremendous amount for those that are working to revitalize Native languages around the state,” Kreiss-Tomkins said.