Friday, August 18, 2006

Alaska Independence Party Gubernatorial Candidate Eddie Burke

Now that Tony Knowles and Sarah Palin have emerged as the presumptive nominees for the Democrats and Republicans respectively, it's now time to focus the spotlight on the underpublicized alternative candidates. One of the most dynamic and experienced alternative candidates is Eddie Burke (pictured upper left), one of three gubernatorial candidates proffered by the Alaska Independence Party (the others are Daniel DeNardo and Don Wright).

A brief recap of his background is in order. Burke is 44 years old and a 34-year resident of Alaska. He has been married to his wife Linda for 24 years. They have four children: Candice, Terrin, Eddie, & Erica. He brings extensive grass-roots political experience to the table, having served as Chief of Staff for the House Resources Committee in the Alaska State Legislature. He was appointed by former Anchorage Mayor Tom Fink to the Hazardous Materials Commission based upon his experience as a then-owner of a local Chevron service station in disposing of waste oil safely and profitably. He also served as Press Secretary for Tax Cap Yes, a citizens group that unsucessfully promoted a statewide 10-mills property tax cap in November 2000 (Tax Cap Yes was outspent approximately 10-1 by Alaskans United Against The Cap), and as Budget Chairman for the Special Olympics board. Burke also chaired the Term Limits Coalition of Alaska and a group called Alaskans Just Say No, a group who fought to protect the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend during both the Knowles and Murkowski Administrations. The resultant Save Your Dividend campaign in 1999 triggered the resounding defeat of a measure proposing a cap on the PFD, with an 83% rejection vote. He also opposed the Municipality of Anchorage's proposed fire hydrant tax in 2004.

Eddie Burke also ran for the Alaska State Senate in 2004 as the AIP candidate for Senate District O against incumbent Republican John Cowdery and Democratic challenger Lynda Zaugg. His blunt, aggressive, cut-to-the-chase campaign style, while criticized by some, earned him 8.4% of the vote.

On the main page of his website, Eddie Burke once again embellishes his credentials as a solid pro-life, pro-family social conservative. He pledges to defend unborn life and the institution of traditional marriage. What's most interesting is the meat of his platform, as described in his 10-point budget plan, replicated here:

10 Point Budget Plan and Reduce the Size Of Government

1). Decrease Spending; Reduce Bureaucracy; Limit Legislature: Let's decrease spending an additional $300 million this year and $100 million in each of the next five years (all sources, federal, state and other). Cap spending to prevent budget increases of programs not constitutionally mandated. Reduce legislative sessions to every other year, and restrict them to 60 days as in other states.

2). Reject New Taxes; Protect Permanent Fund; Privatize Services; Eliminate Unneeded Laws and Regulations: Place a moratorium on new taxes, prohibit spending the Permanent Fund, and contract out numerous government services including road maintenance and Division of Motor Vehicle functions. Remove superfluous laws enacted since statehood and eliminate regulations that hinder the economy.

3). End Subsidies to Special Interest Groups: Eliminate tax dollars to special interest groups such as fisheries, agriculture, government TV and radio. Encourage private funding through tax incentives.

4). Incentives for Economic Growth; Land Transfers to Alaskans: Move aggressively forward with oil and gas development through increased leasing, royalty reductions and streamlined regulations. Release state land to the public, create tax incentives and reduce fees and regulations to spur private-sector, small-business growth.

5). Transform Education: End the government-controlled monopoly on schools through competition by giving parents vouchers or tax credits for sending their children to the school of their choice be it public or private. Consolidate expensive school districts to eliminate costly administration and achieve economies of scale.

6). Trim Government Work Force: Trim government work force through attrition. Place an immediate hiring freeze, and cap expensive salary and benefit packages.

7). Merge and Eliminate Departments and Agencies: Merge departments and agencies including Natural Resources, Environmental Conservation, Economic Development and Fish & Game. Eliminate the Department of Administration.

8). Cut Welfare and Tax Subsidies to Cities: Cut welfare sufficiently to inspire able bodied people to work, and eliminate tax subsidies to cities for government social engineering programs.

9). Re-Prioritize University Spending: Build an endowment by developing university-owned real estate so higher education is more independently funded. Merge money-losing rural campuses into the main campuses and cut redundant highly paid administrative positions. Re-direct savings to classes and degree programs for the benefit of students.

10).Close Office Buildings; Move the Capitol; Contract out Prisons: Close unneeded government office complexes throughout the state including the Capitol and the State Office Building in Juneau. Relocate capitol into the state-owned Atwood Building in Anchorage along with all department headquarters. Close money-losing incarceration facilities and contract them out to less costly private prisons.

Known Responses To Candidate Surveys: The Juneau Pro-Choice Coalition Political Action Committee declared him "Not Endorsed - Anti-Choice" based on his reponse to their survey. Both Eagle Forum Alaska and NEA-Alaska declared him non-responsive to their candidate surveys as of this post time.

Analysis: First, his desire to decrease spending is commendable, but with rising energy costs, this will be too difficult to achieve. Capping existing spending would be a more realistic goal until energy costs stabilize, the impact of the Prudhoe Bay shutdown becomes more apparent, and a natural gas pipeline contract agreed upon.

Restricting the state legislative sessions to 60 days every other year quite frankly is an impossible goal, with the state legislature currently going into "overtime" almost every year. A strict 90-day limit on yearly sessions would be more attainable.

Opening up state land for sale to Alaskans is absolutely imperative to grow and diversify our economy. Not only would this bring the state needed revenue, but would also increase the local tax base at the grass-roots level. Localities would need less state assistance. To facilitate this measure, streamlining of permitting processes and redefining of environmental goals must continue so that if a drunk pees in the corner of your yard, he doesn't officially create a "wetland".

His education proposals are sound. While I still support the concept of public education as applied here in Alaska, the absolute refusal of the National Education Association at the national level to address pertinent issues and their morbid obsession with diversity and social engineering, to include making teacher credentialing conditional upon acceptance of the homosexual agenda, makes vouchers a necessary alternative.

Moving the capitol should be one of the highest priorities. At the very least, relocate the legislature to Anchorage. Since the Anchorage caucus makes up half the legislature, you would instantly reduce the travel and lodging costs of half the state's lawmakers to "incidental" levels only. Travel cost for all other state lawmakers (except Southeast Alaska) would also be reduced. While it's questionable whether or not the Atwood Building is an effective choice, the soon-to-be-vacated Kulis ANGB offers facilities which could be suitable for the legislature.

This, of course, leads to the "$64,000 question", should we vote for him? Certainly he's the strongest of the three AIP candidates, with the most relevant and diverse track record of activism and political experience. He would be the AIP's best gubernatorial candidate since Jack Coghill in 1994. However, we have a special problem in the general election: Tony Knowles. For eight years, Tony Knowles was a no-growth, taxoholic governor. Twice he proposed a state income tax, in 1999 and again in 2002. Can we afford four more years of Tony Knowles? The answer is a resounding "NO"!

In any other general election, Eddie Burke would be a good choice. However, in the November 2006 general election, Eddie Burke is more likely to take votes from Sarah Palin than from Tony Knowles. There's no guarantee that Independent candidate Andrew Halcro would take enough votes from Knowles to cancel that effect. So I must reluctantly conclude that a vote for Burke in November would be an indirect vote for Knowles. Voting for Sarah Palin is the best way to stop Tony Knowles.

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