As lawmakers begin to figure out what the makeup of various legislative caucuses will look like, Josiah “Aullaqsruaq” Patkotak is in a slightly different position than most other representative-elects.
With unofficial results coming in two weeks after the general election, Patkotak emerged victorious in the race for House District 40, which includes the North Slope, the Northwest Arctic Borough and several Interior Alaska villages.
While Republicans hold a slim majority in the state House, Patkotak, an independent, says he hasn’t committed to joining a legislative caucus yet. However, he says there are several programs he wants to ensure receive funding.
“As I lump them together, as I’ve had to talk to people over the last couple days, I call them PPT and PCE — petroleum property taxes and Power Cost Equalization,” Patkotak said. “Those are on the list of priorities. There are other things that I’m interested in looking out for, and I’m making sure those are involved in my decision making moving forward.”
With many of the Republicans who’ve been elected to the Legislature in favor of large cuts to funding for state services, Patkotak says he’s opposed to joining a caucus that would cut programs like PPT and PCE.
“Anybody that’s going to look at attacking programs or services that are going to affect my district negatively, that’s not something I’m going to be in favor of, obviously,” Patkotak said.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy proposed transfering oil property taxes from municipalities like the North Slope Borough to the state government last year. He didn’t repeat the proposal this year. And Dunleavy and some Republican lawmakers proposed eliminating the Power Cost Equalization Fund last year. It’s not clear whether Dunleavy will propose a similar change in the budget he introduces in December.
For now, Patkotak isn’t committing to any legislative caucus. He says he hopes to take his role as an independent lawmaker seriously.
“I have this deep belief that a lot of things that I’ve learned going whaling can be applied throughout my life,” Patkotak said. “That’s one of the things. You know when to strike the whale and you know when not to. And I think I’m just applying that same principle here. Like I said, I haven’t committed to anybody. All options are on the table.”
The Division of Elections expects to officially certify the results of the election next week, with lawmakers set to arrive in Juneau in January.