Former State Representative Bill Thomas will return to Juneau this year as a lobbyist for the Haines Borough.
It wasn’t a straightforward decision for the assembly. They spent about an hour debating whether a lobbyist could do much for the borough, considering the state’s financial deficit.
Assemblyman Tom Morphet pointed out the toll state budget cuts have already taken on Haines. The community lost its Public Health nurse, state forestry office funding, and more.
“If I thought in my heart that we could send Bill down there and he could save us from what’s coming…the State’s gonna cut $3 billion, or make up $3 billion in its budget,” Morphet said.
The six-month lobbyist contract would cost the borough about $22,000. Thomas said that is not a lot of money compared to what many Alaska lobbyists make.
“If you vote it down, fine, I’ve got big boy pants on and I’ve been through this stuff before,” Thomas said. “I think you lose, not me.”
Assembly member Margaret Friedenauer said she was hesitant about the contract last year because it didn’t include clear enough priorities for the lobbyist to work from. She said, this year, the assembly did define those priorities, with Lutak Dock at the top of the list.
Friedenauer also said she was optimistic about the contract because of the new bipartisan majority in the Alaska House of Representatives. It includes Haines Democratic Rep. Sam Kito III.
“There is now a bipartisan coalition in the House, and our representative, Kito, is in that coalition, which gives our representative a whole lot more power,” Friedenauer said. “And to have that I think is a huge reason to also have a lobbyist, especially a lobbyist who Mr. Kito knows.”
The assembly voted 4-2 to renegotiate the lobbyist contract through June 2017. Morphet and Tresham Gregg were opposed.
Thomas says he plans to travel to the Capital City this weekend.