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Front Page Feature Photo By STEVE SPEIGHTS

It's beginning to look a lot like...
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Front Page Feature Photo By STEVE SPEIGHTS ©2017



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Alaska

Alaska: $4.7 billion operating, capital budget announced; 1.5% payroll deduction tax proposed By MARY KAUFFMAN - Friday, Alaska Governor Bill Walker released a three-part budget proposal for fiscal year 2019, which will be funded in part by a limited 1.5% payroll deduction tax. According to the governor, this budget plan will strengthen public safety, create jobs for Alaskans, and restore accountability in the budget process.

The $4.7 billion proposal, announced in Anchorage, includes the state's operating budget, capital budget; economic recovery; and budget reform. Just one year ago, a $4.2 billion operating budget and a $115 million capital budget were announced on December 15th.

The governor's budget also includes a $34 million increase in public safety spending to invest in a proposed Public Safety Action Plan which calls for more "resources" to address the rise in Alaska's crime and the opioid epidemic.

“We have cut spending to increase funding for public safety,” said Governor Bill Walker. New spending will include a statewide drug prosecutor, a statewide trooper investigator, two prosecutors in Anchorage, expansion of substance abuse treatment, a prosecutor in Bethel, a trooper investigator in Bethel and a prosecutor in Kotzebue.

The proposed buget also includes an "Alaska Economic Recover Plan" to be funded in part by the proposed 1.5% payroll decuction tax that is to sunset in 2021. Proposed and funded by this payroll deduction tax is the economic investment of $1.4 billion over three years to put more than 1,000 Alaskans to work. The payroll deduction tax is also designed to provide $800 million towards the state’s $1.8 billion deferred maintenance backlog.

The budget also includes proposals to pay off outstanding oil and gas exploration tax credits in fiscal year 2019, and grant the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation authority to accept funds from sources other than the State of Alaska.

Addressing FY2019's proposed capital budget of $150 million in unrestricted general funds, according to the Alaska Office of Management and Budget, this is very minimal, covering federal match for transportation, rural and municipal water and sewer programs, housing, and required technology upgrades. FY2019’s capital budget is 39 percent lower than the FY2018’s state capital spend that included unrestricted general fund and re-appropriations (use of unrestricted general funds remaining in old projects re-directed to new priorities) totaling $255 million.

Regarding accountability, Governor Walker said, "We should pink-slip ourselves before we hand out pink slips to teachers and troopers.”

To restore accountability, if the Governor does not publish the budget by December 15th, he will forfeit per diem and have pay withheld for each overdue day. Similarly, if the legislature does not pass the budget within the 90-day deadline, legislators will forfeit per-diem and have pay withheld for each overdue day until budget passage.

The Alaska Office of Management & Budget will also work with Legislative Budget and Audit to change the way the budget is presented, to create greater transparency. The Alaska Budget Transparency Report is a new report that will be produced to keep Alaskans informed and provide a more accurate gauge of the true “footprint” of government. This report is to be designed to help the public in understanding the actual trend of state spending over time.

Senator Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage) said in a prepared statement Friday, “I applaud his efforts and innovative ideas including biennial budgets to increase certainty in state services, using per-diem as a tool to encourage the legislature to pass budgets in a timely manner, and creating a small, temporary payroll tax to put people back to work on deferred maintenance projects."


Gardner said, “However, I doubt Alaskans support taxing only working people for necessary state infrastructure while prioritizing the use of dwindling state funds to pay credits to oil and gas companies." 

Senator Gardner said, “I am heartened to see the Governor's budget acknowledge Alaskans do not feel safe in their homes and communities. The Senate Democrats have been advocating for increased public safety and appreciate that the Governor is adding more troopers, drug offense prosecutors, criminal investigators, and adding grants to address substance abuse treatment.  These are all good steps to increase our security and improve lives."

“We absolutely must focus on creating confidence in Alaska and predictability for families, employees, teachers, bankers, and all Alaskans.  I look forward to working with my colleagues to make this a budget that reflects Alaska’s conscience.” said Gardner.

In a news release, the members of the Alaska House Majority Coalition said they believe the Governor’s budget proposal aligns with Coalition priorities because it fully funds public education and responds to the uptick in crime by providing additional funding for some of the state agencies that deal with public safety in Alaska.

The Governor’s budget proposal will be used as the starting point for the budget deliberations of the Alaska House Finance Committee, under the direction of Co-Chair Rep. Paul Seaton (R-Homer).

“We face some difficult decisions in the coming months to protect the jobs of thousands of Alaskans, ensure we get out of this lingering recession, and put Alaska back on firm fiscal ground. I am especially pleased to see that the Governor is proposing to fully fund public education. As Alaskans we must resist the urge to slash and burn our decades-long investment in great schools and excellent teachers to fill a budget gap caused by low oil prices and legislative inaction,” said House Finance Committee Co-Chair Rep. Paul Seaton (R-Homer).

Rep. Seaton is in charge of guiding the proposed FY 2019 operating budget through the legislative process in the Alaska House of Representatives. The other Finance Committee Co-Chair, Rep. Neal Foster (D-Nome), will lead the proposed FY 2019 capital budget through the process. The Governor’s proposed FY 2019 capital budget is a very modest $150 million that will cover the state’s match for anticipated federal funding for roads and water and sewer projects. 

“The bare bones capital budget put out by the Governor is what I had anticipated. There simply is not sufficient revenue to address our state’s infrastructure needs. That said, we also cannot risk the damage to our economy by foregoing matching funds from the federal government. The details of the capital budget and his economic stimulus plan will require due consideration and I am committed to working with our members and Senate counterparts on these proposals,” said Rep. Foster.

The Alaska Department of Revenue released the Fall 2017 Revenue Sources Book, which estimates that unrestricted General Fund revenues will total $2.1 billion this fiscal year and $2 billion in FY 2019. The revenue forecast is based on a projected oil price of $56 per barrel this year and $57 per barrel in FY 2019.

The limited payroll deduction tax of 1.5 percent is designed to sunset after three years and be limited to paying for deferred maintenance projects according to the Alaska House Majority Coalition. The coalition will be reviewing this proposal when the Second Session of the 30th Alaska State Legislature gets underway on January 16, 2018. - More...
Saturday AM - December 16, 2017

Alaska: State Agrees to Settle TAPS Tariff Rate Litigation - The State of Alaska has agreed to settle dozens of cases involving Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) tariff rates for the years 2009-2015. In these cases, the State asserted that TAPS tariff rates were too high, resulting in reduced royalty and tax obligations by the shippers who utilize TAPS. 

For the last two years, the State engaged in negotiations with the carriers, federal regulatory agencies, and independent shippers to resolve the issues raised in the 2009-2015 rate cases.  Under the proposed settlement, the State will retain the $224 million already collected, and will collect at least $165 million of additional revenue. In addition, the carriers will agree that approximately $625 million of costs associated with strategic reconfiguration, a project which automated and electrified equipment along the TAPS pipeline, will never be placed in TAPS tariff rates, keeping rates low into the future. This will increase the value of Alaska North Slope (ANS) crude for tax and royalty purposes. 

“This settlement is a great result for the State,” said Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth. “It creates certainty going forward, avoids future litigation, and will provide additional taxes and royalties—bringing needed money to the state treasury.” - More...
Saturday AM - December 16, 2017

 

 

Analysis: With FCC's net neutrality ruling, the U.S. could lose its lead in online consumer protection By SASCHA MEINRATH & NATHALIA FODITSCH - The internet may be an international system of interconnecting networks sharing a rough global consensus about the technical details of communicating through them – but each country manages its own internet environment independently. As the U.S. debate about the role of government in overseeing and regulating the internet continues, it’s worth looking at how other countries handle the issue.

Our research and advocacy on internet regulation in the U.S. and other countries offers us a unique historical and global perspective on the Federal Communications Commission’s December 2017 decision to deregulate the internet in the U.S. The principle of an open internet, often called “net neutrality,” is one of consumer protection. It is based on the idea that everyone – users and content providers alike – should be able to freely spread their own views, and consumers can choose what services to use and what content to consume. Network neutrality ensures that no one – not the government, nor corporations – is allowed to censor speech or interfere with content, services or applications.

As the U.S. continues to debate whether to embrace internet freedom, the world is doing so already, with many countries imposing even stronger rules than the ones the FCC did away with. - More...
Saturday AM - December 16, 2017

Analysis: A parent's guide to ending sexual harassment and assault; Teaching kids early can help. By MERLE H. WEINER - The resignation of three members of Congress – John Conyers, Al Franken and Trent Franks – should serve as a reminder to parents to talk to their children about sexual misconduct.

As a law professor with a focus on domestic and sexual violence, I know that the law alone does not deter sexual misbehavior. Parents have an important role to play in helping prevent children from becoming perpetrators, now and as adults.

By “parent,” I include those people who provide care and support for a child, but might not technically be the parent, such as grandparents, aunts and uncles.

Children as perpetrators

Children are typically thought of as victims of sexual misconduct. But children can be perpetrators too. In fact, 36 percent of the sex crimes against juveniles are perpetrated by other juveniles. The U.S. Supreme Court described one such incident when it clarified schools’ responsibilities under Title IX, the federal law that addresses sexual harassment in schools. The case involved a fifth grader who acted in a sexually suggestive way to a classmate. Among other things, he allegedly put a door stop in his pants and rubbed his body against hers. The victim was so distraught that she wrote a suicide note. The young perpetrator eventually pleaded guilty to sexual battery.

Lessons about appropriate conduct can matter for children’s behavior during childhood, but the benefits of parental instruction extend beyond childhood. While young perpetrators do not necessarily continue perpetrating into adulthood, some do. Even those who start offending in adulthood might not have if they had internalized right and wrong at an earlier age.

What can parents say and do to reduce the chance that their children will behave badly? - More...
Saturday AM - December 16, 2017


 

Columns - Commentary

 

jpg MICAHEL REAGAN

MICAHEL REAGAN: Alabama Stupidity - Democrats can dream all they want.

They and their soulmates in the liberal media can celebrate the victory by Doug Jones in Alabama's U.S. Senate race until next fall.

They can continue to fool themselves into thinking that Republican candidate Ray Moore's narrow defeat was a sign from above that the Democratic Party will regain control of Congress in 2018.

And that Moore's defeat will prove to be the beginning of the end for President Trump.

But what happened on Tuesday in the reddest state in America - the state Donald Trump won by a landslide - was not a harbinger of the death of the GOP.

The Moore-Jones contest was a bizarre one-off - a controversial, nationally publicized, expensive, hard-fought special election featuring a horrible Republican candidate that will go down as one of the most embarrassing races in modern electoral history.

Jones, the Democrats and Trump-hating media have good reason to high-five each other over their victory - in the short run.

But the biggest loser on Tuesday was not President Trump, who publicly supported Moore in the final days.

It wasn't even the incompetent GOP, whose meddling national leadership made Jones' seemingly impossible win possible.

The biggest loser by far was Steve Bannon, Roy Moore's chief cheerleader and future puppet-master. - More...
Saturday AM - December 16, 2017

jpg MICHAEL SHANNON

MICHAEL SHANNON: #MeToo Movement Should Have More Love for Mike Pence - If women had only known all it took to shatter the glass ceiling was to accuse your boss of sexual harassment, workplace history would have been very different! Of course - much like a frontal assault on a machinegun nest - the first over the top aren't getting the plum jobs, but their sacrifice makes it possible for rear echelon women to either achieve or guilt their way into the 'C' suites.

The bosses were all for wiping out the barriers that produced a serviceable work-life balance if it meant women were handy 24/7. For them, taking work home meant road testing the new intern.

All this is why it was so refreshing to find a man in a powerful position who had strict rules regarding workplace harassment. More important, he followed those rules to the letter. That meant he was permanently immune to Gloria Allred-type ambushes at Groping Gulch.

Those rules keep his reputation intact and, equally important and often overlooked, the rules keep the reputations of the women who work for him equally intact. His is an office run on performance and not pheromones. 

In short, this man is nothing short of a paragon workplace ethics and respect for women. So, you can imagine my surprise when I visited the websites of the National Organization of Women, Emily's List, the Feminist Majority and even Jezebel and found zero recognition for this pioneer in establishing workplace boundaries. - More...
Saturday AM - December 16, 2017


jpg Political Cartoon: Net Neutrality

Political Cartoon: Net Neutrality
By Adam Zyglis ©2017, The Buffalo News
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

      

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Opinion - Letter

Violence Prevention By Agnes Moran - Alaska leads the nation in per capita incidence of sexual assault and domestic violence. Unfortunately, as the recent headlines in the Ketchikan Daily News indicate, Ketchikan is not exempt from these statistics. Women in Safe Homes (WISH) is working to eliminate violence in our community through community partnerships and primary prevention and education programs. - More...
Saturday AM - December 16, 2017

Opinion - Letter

President Trump should sign ANWR legislation to boost Alaska’s economy, nation’s energy dominance By Gail Phillips - Alaskans are on the verge of seeing the oil-rich coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) opened to leasing for the first time – a three-decades-long quest that was, until now, stifled by environmental it and the blocking-and-tackling tactics of Democrats in Washington, DC. - More...
Saturday AM - December 16, 2017

Opinion - Letter

AMHS PROBLEMS PLAGUE SOUTHEAST ALASKA COMMUNITIES By Mary Lynne Dahl - My husband and I are frequent customers of the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system. We have been sailing on the Ketchikan – Prince Rupert run about 6 round trips per year for 16 years, mostly in winter. We have become very familiar with many of the boats and crew over these years. - More...
Thursday PM - December 07, 2017

Opinion - Letter

These are the Facts By Rep. Dan Ortiz - This letter is in direct response to a December 4th letter to Sitnews submitted by David Nees of the Alaska Policy Forum, out of Anchorage. Mr. Nees states that the numbers I used in my Dec. 1st letter to Sitnews are “inaccurate and misleading.” - More...
Thursday PM - December 07, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Speechless By A. M. Johnson - I am speechless!! Why so? You ask. I am speechless because of the act of congress to hide, fund and approve of sexual acts performed by elected representatives of Congress. To then hide that action behind a screen not openly viewed by the tax paying public. I am so speechless along with frustration over the extent of abuse towards woman being aided by elected women. Tragic that the intent is to protect abusers over the pain suffered by the victims' being paid off with OUR money. - More...
Thursday PM - December 07, 2017

Opinion - Letter

IN JERRY’S WORLD By David G Hanger - Ghert Abbott is spot-on with his commentary about Federal income tax policy, but he is also too polite. This is not tax reform. This is not even tax or economic policy. This is pure theft by some of the biggest pigs this world has ever produced. - More...
Thursday PM - December 07, 2017

Opinion - Letter

RE: Alaska's Fiscal Situation By David Nees - In a December 1 opinion piece Rep Ortiz opines that he is unfairly being accused of wanting to implement an income tax and has not done enough to cut spending. He then lays out exactly the same argument as the Walker administration with the inaccurate misleading cuts of 44% and huge loss of state jobs. - More...
Monday PM - December 04, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Tax the Rich By Ken Leland - Jerry Cegelsky is right, after spending your lifetime building an estate through hard work and sacrifice, sometimes failing in your endeavors, but always keeping on that path to financial stability and security in your declining years, with health issues for yourself and your Family to deal with along the way, it's not an easy path, but you deal with it. - More...
Monday PM - December 04, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Alaska's Fiscal Situation By Rep. Dan Ortiz - A misleading internet video posted around Thanksgiving alleged that I “want” to implement a state-wide income tax and that the State of Alaska continues to have a bloated budget. Neither of those statements are accurate. - More...
Friday AM - December 01, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Trump Condones China's Press Restrictions By Donald Moskowitz - President Trump refused to take reporters questions during his visit to China.  He succumbed to Chinese insistence that no questions be allowed from the press. - More...
Friday AM - December 01, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Easy to take money from those who have sacrificed, planned and worked By Jerry Cegelske - Ghert Abbott's letter to Sitnews on November 21st stated that the solution to the Alaska fiscal problem is to heavily tax the investment income from the “rich” people. A problem I have with his solution is the government is the entity which defines the term “rich” or economically advantaged. It is easy for government to lower the definition of rich so that the numerous middle class and lower taxpayers end up paying the bill. Government has an unlimited power to take from people and an unlimited ability to spend more than they should. - More...
Monday PM - November 27, 2017

Opinion - Letter

The GOP’s Malevolent Tax Proposals By Ghert Abbott - It is impossible to fully convey the sheer, unbridled malevolence of the GOP tax plans currently being rushed through Congress. In order to pay for permanent corporate tax cuts which will predominately benefit the super-rich, working and middle class Americans will receive a permanent tax increase. At first this tax increase will be masked by temporary tax cuts, but once all the temporary cuts expire 50% of Americans will find themselves with a higher tax bill. These permanent tax increases will be particularly concentrated on households earning below $75,000 a year. The GOP’s tax plan will thus redistribute wealth upwards, increasing the tax burden of ordinary Americans while decreasing the taxes paid by the extremely wealthy. But the costs of paying for these corporate tax cuts won’t stop there. - More...
Monday PM - November 27, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Open Letter: Thank You By Alannah Hurley Dear Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission, On behalf of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay (UTBB), I would like to thank you for standing in unity with the people of Bristol Bay. The letter from your tribe urging the EPA to finalize protections for our watershed and Yup’ik, Dena’ina, and Alutiiq way of life is a great help to our efforts. Like many in your region, our tribal members still live a traditional way of life in balance with our pristine lands and waters. The health of our watershed is directly connected to the health and well-being of our people and the continuation of our cultures, we thank you again for helping us work to protect this connection for future generations. - More...
Monday PM - November 27, 2017

Opinion - Letter

“YOU WHO HATE” By David G Hanger - When next you choose to rant on a subject, Mr. Tim Livingston, I would suggest you at least understand what the subject is lest you again appear as stupid as you do in this instance. The term “plausible deniability” is technically a legal term for a method or action frequently used by extreme right-wing politicians in an effort to advance their agenda of lies, deceit, and ironclad control. In its more pedestrian utilization we have the denials and semi-denials of such as Menendez and Franken, but as refined political utility it is a right-wing phenomenon first developed by Goebbels, and more recently re- invigorated by the likes of Karl Rove. - More...
Monday PM - November 27, 2017

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“Hundreds of Alaskans have reached out to my administration saying health care costs are increasingly unaffordable,” Governor Walker said. “This law will provide relief from large premium hikes for

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