On a blustery Thursday evening in October, a couple dozen people from the construction industry gathered to say hello to colleagues over a bottle of beer or glass of wine and to learn more about how the Associated General Contractors of Alaska political action committee benefits them and their companies.
The event: a Construction Leadership Council mixer, held at AGC’s headquarters on Schoon Street. The Construction Leadership Council, or CLC, is a professional development-focused group aimed at people who are relatively new to the construction industry. A membership in AGC isn’t required to attend, and it’s open to anyone who has between zero and 18 years of industry experience, said membership director Lauren Sharrock.
“The ultimate goal is to create the kind of relationships at our level that we see the board of directors having. They’ve known each other for 30 years. (The CLC) lays the groundwork for future development,” she said.
Three state legislators attended the event, where AGC outlined how it raises funds for the AGC political action committee, or PAC, and why. Longtime member Hal Ingalls, who organizes the 50/50 raffle that is AGC’s primary PAC fundraiser, explained the drawing is held during the annual AGC of Alaska conference each November.
“When you run for office, it takes a tremendous amount of time and money,” said AGC Executive Director John MacKinnon. MacKinnon is familiar with the commitments that come with public office; he is married to Sen. Anna MacKinnon.
“Our PAC raises money to contribute to candidates who support our industry,” MacKinnon said.
Sen. MacKinnon, along with Sen. Kevin Meyer and Rep. Dan Saddler, all Republicans from Anchorage/Eagle River, told the group that after hearing from public officials about budgetary matters, hearing from private individuals and PACs like AGC is important.
“Why should you be involved? If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,” Saddler said. “Second, by contributing at the level of the PAC, your vote is a force multiplier.”
Saddler explained that voting plus contributing means giving legislators the information they need to support their constituents’ needs, as well as helping them spread that message to other legislators. Sen. MacKinnon pointed out that simply voting could be a game-changer in some Alaska races.
“Every single vote matters. Speaker Edgmon won his vote by a coin toss,” she said, referring to House Speaker Bryce Edgmon. A Democrat from Dillingham, Edgmon won his first election to the Alaska House in the 2006 primary by a coin toss because the vote was tied. His opponent was incumbent Democrat Carl Moses.
Meyer said it’s important to be part of an organization that lobbies in Juneau on behalf of its members.
“We do see faces from the public sector all the time. We need to elect good people who know the private sector,” he said. “AGC — they do come down and they do remind us (of the construction industry’s needs).”
AGC holds a yearly Legislative Fly-in, during which AGC representatives speak with legislators and host a dinner in Juneau. The 2018 fly-in is set for Jan. 30-31.
Sen. MacKinnon, who is co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said legislators face many problems with a budget that is barely enough to cover day-to-day expenses and which has little left over for capital projects that the Alaska construction industry relies on.
“We’re facing some pretty tough choices. Alaska is in a tough spot. It’s very difficult for me to provide work for you on the streets,” she said. “My team took $100 million and turned it into $1 billion (in project funding) from the federal government.”
Meyer said he believes more cuts to government operations and perhaps a plan to restructure the Permanent Fund to keep it intact into the future are needed before talk of taxing Alaskans goes further. He and Sen. MacKinnon said they will continue to press the state to pay oil exploration companies the hundreds of millions in oil tax credits they are due.
Sen. MacKinnon said that, despite divisions, everyone in the legislature is trying to solve the fiscal problem; however, hearing from industry representatives and private individuals could help bring a solution.
“Senate and House, Republicans, Democrats and Independents want to solve all of our issues; they just want to solve them differently. You can come forward with one voice,” she said.
For more information about the AGC PAC, call Margaret Empie at 907-865-0545 or Tanya Higgins-Atkins at 907-865-0542. For more information about the CLC, call Sharrock at 907-865-0544.
Rindi White is a writer for MARCOA Media Alaska. The Construction Leadership Council holds quarterly get-togethers aimed at professional development for construction industry workers who have been in the industry fewer than 18 years.