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Alaska: Senate Affirms Fiscal Solution Friday - The Alaska Senate Finance Committee announced they will hold a special hearing Friday at 9:00 AM to review the Senate’s fiscal solution, including a thorough vetting of the plan by the independent, nonpartisan Legislative Finance Division.

If Alaska's lawmakers can't figure out how to agree on the budget, the state government would shut down on July 1, 2017.

Despite significant budget reductions over the last four years, the state faces a $2.8 billion deficit this fiscal year. While the House, governor, and Senate agree the solution must include responsible use of Permanent Fund earnings to help pay for government and dividends, there is a difference in how to fill the remainder of the gap.

The Alaska Senate proposes capping government spending at today’s levels, and drawing from the Constitutional Budget Reserve to cover the deficit – without depleting those reserves. The Alaska House and governor do not support a spending limit to prevent government from growing, and want to implement a substantial new income tax on Alaska’s wage earners, businesses and retirees to supply government with more money.

“We want Alaskans to understand why the Senate supports a no-new-taxes solution to our fiscal problems,” said Sen. Anna MacKinnon (R-Eagle River) co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee. “We’ll vet our solution against a variety of assumptions, stress-testing it for the future and also for how well it protects our Permanent Fund.”

However the Alaska House Majority Coalition says that of the over 100 Alaskans who provided public testimony Tuesday night to the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee on the proposed Education Funding Act, a significant majority of those who testified spoke in favor of House Bill 115 and maintaining Alaska’s commitment to public education and the University of Alaska. HB 115 passed the Alaska House of Representatives earlier this month and is under consideration in the Alaska State Senate.

“I was heartened to see so many Alaskans willing to wait hours on the phone or in person to voice their support for this key pillar of our comprehensive fiscal plan,” said Speaker of the House Rep. Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham). “This is further proof that Alaskans want a full fiscal solution this year to stabilize the economy and end the ongoing recession.”

According to the Alaska House Majority Coalition, HB 115 features a modest, progressive income tax anticipated to generate $687 million a year once fully implemented in 2019. $80 million would come from non-residents, who would be taxed on income earned in Alaska. When combined with the House version of the Permanent Fund restructure, these two mechanisms ask Alaskans to contribute less than 3 percent of their total annual income, whether they are in the bottom 10 percent of earners or the top 1 percent.

“What we witnessed [Tuesday] night was further proof that Alaskans are willing to undertake some personal sacrifices to provide for education and fiscal stability in the state of Alaska. The burgeoning support for the Education Funding Act is further evidence that our Coalition is on the right course in proposing a plan that fully balances the budget and spreads the burden fairly across the entire economy rather than targeting just one industry or segment of the population,” said House Finance Committee Co-chair Rep. Paul Seaton (R-Homer).

“Votes on taxes are hard and politically charged, but it’s become abundantly clear that the people of Alaska want us to make the hard choices, ignore the political risks, and plan for the kind of Alaska we want to live in,” said Seaton.

The money collected from the Education Funding Act would be used to fund K-12 education in Alaska, which the Alaska State Senate has targeted for a $69 million reduction. The House version of the FY 2018 operating budget protects the current level of K-12 and University of Alaska funding in the FY 2017 budget. - More...
Thursday PM - April 27, 2017


Alaska: Alaska Senate Confirmations, Focuses on Fiscal Challenge - The Alaska Legislature voted today to defer confirmation hearings of the governor’s appointments to department heads, boards and commissions, signaling that resolution must first be reached on addressing the state’s fiscal challenge.  

“We must keep our eye on the prize,” said Senate President Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks). “Our top priority is working to pass SB 26, the solution to the state’s fiscal problem.”

The Alaska Senate passed Senate Bill 26 on March 15, 2017; the House passed its version in mid-April. A conference committee appointed this week will now meet to evaluate the differences and come to a compromise.

Traditionally, confirmation hearings occur at the end of the legislative session, and both the House and governor have indicated they intend to operate under the 121-day constitutional limit; today is day 101. 

Governor Bill Walker released a prepared statement on the Senate’s failure to hold a vote on his Cabinet appointees and nominees for state boards and commissions.

Governor Walker said, “I thank members of the House for their leadership to invite the Senate to their chambers, on two separate sessions, to hold a confirmation hearing on more than 100 Alaskans who have stepped forward to serve their state. I am disappointed that the Senate Majority has, once again, refused the House’s invitation to participate in this process.  I will continue to focus on resolving Alaska’s fiscal crisis this session.”

The Republican Senate Majority voted along caucus lines Thursday to immediately adjourn a joint session called by a proclamation from Governor Bill Walker. The purpose of the session was to vote on confirmations of more than 100 Alaskans to fill vital government roles including Attorney General for the State of Alaska. A previous call to a joint session earlier in the month was refused by the Senate Majority. - More...
Thursday PM - April 27, 2017

Alaska: LeDoux Declares Only Her Voice Will Be Heard In Committee - Chairperson of the House Rules Committee, Gabrielle LeDoux (R-Anchorage) upset the House Rules Committee Wednesday when she proposed amendments to make changes to SCR2 thus changing the Senate resolution to a new piece of legislation that had not been heard by any other committee.

Then LeDoux refused to allow ammendments from Representative David Eastman and Republican Whip Mike Chenault (R-Kenai) coming after a week working with other legislators and attorneys at the Legislative Affairs Legal Division.

"Representative LeDoux believes in a process in which other legislators must come to her and earn her support before the voters they represent are entitled to have a voice in the legislature," said Rep. David Eastman (R-Wasilla).

"My constituents will have none of that – They have a word for that where I come from: "Corruption". No American, No Alaskan, should have to tolerate that type of Pay-to-Play mentality existing in the halls of their legislature," stated Eastman in a news release.

Rep. Chenault's amendment corrected the date of the resolution. Rep. Eastman offered a pro-life amendment relating to child abuse that was co-sponsored by all Minority members of the Rules Committee.

LeDoux refused the amendment to correct the date of the resolution saying she's then have to entertain the right-to-amendment by Eastmen.

When pressed Rep. Lora Reinbold why amendments from the other legislators on the committee were not allowed to be heard, LeDoux indignantly declared, "Because I don't want any amendments," according to the news release. - More...
Thursday PM - April 27, 2017

 



Ketchikan:
30 University of Alaska Southeast Ketchikan Students Receiving Degrees - The 2017 commencement ceremony for University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) Ketchikan students will be held Saturday, May 6 at 2:00 PM at the Ted Ferry Civic Center.

This year’s commencement keynote speaker is David Johnson, M.D., 2016 Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year and retired pediatrician. UAS Chancellor Rick Caulfield, UAS Provost Karen Carey, Ketchikan Campus Director Priscilla Schulte, and University of Alaska Regent Dale Anderson will bestow degrees at the ceremony.

Thirty students are receiving degrees this spring. University of Alaska students living in Ketchikan and receiving degrees from other University of Alaska campuses are invited to participate in the local ceremony.

The public is invited to attend. The ceremony will begin at 2:00 PM this year instead of 3:00 PM as in prior years.

The graduates are: - More...
Thursday PM - April 27, 2017

Ketchikan: Ketchikan Community Foundation to Announce 2017 Grant Award Winners - The recipients of Ketchikan Community Foundation’s (KCF) 2017 grant awards will be announced May 5 as part of the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council “Celebration of the Sea” events.

According to Tessa Axelson, Ketchikan Community Foundation’s Board Chair, more than $30,000 in awards will be made to several local non-profit organizations. The 2017 grant program is more than double that awarded in 2016, and represents KCF’s second year awarding funds to local grantees.

In 2016 KCF awarded a total of $12,000 to the Ketchikan Theatre Ballet, Special Olympics Ketchikan, Ketchikan Area Arts & Humanities Council, and Ketchikan Volunteer Hospice.

The 2017 awardees will be announced at a reception at 6:30 p.m. Friday, May 5 at the newly renovated Tongass Historical Museum; the public is invited to attend. - More...
Thursday PM - April 27, 2017


 


COLUMNS - COMMENTARY

jpg JOHN L. MICEK

JOHN L. MICEK: 100 Days In, Who's Winning Again? - During last year's campaign, Donald Trump promised cheering throngs that they'd eventually be so tired of winning that they'd beg for a respite from all those victories.

But as President Trump's 100th day in office closes in this week, the Republican is woefully short of major legislative victories and time is running short.

And as a possible (if entirely avoidable) government shutdown looms, the White House is frantically pressing for wins on some of its key campaign promises.

That includes authorization of a border wall (which is running into resistance from Democrats and Republicans alike) and an Obamacare repeal vote, which House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., has said may not happen this week.

And there's still tax reform to go yet -- the broad outlines of which are expected to emerge Wednesday.

And, yes, there have been some bright spots: Trump got plaudits for a missile strike in Syria. And he did see the successful confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. - More...
Thursday PM - April 27, 2017

jpg JOE GUZZARDI

JOE GUZZARDI: Trump's Bad Day - With his 100th day in office fast approaching, President Donald Trump recently suffered two major, but non-fatal, reversals on signature campaign promises. On April 25, during the morning hours, President Trump wisely waved the white flag on his insistence that $5 billion in funding for his "big beautiful" Southwest border wall be included in the proposed continuing resolution to keep the government open. Democrats, who oppose the wall, threatened to shut down the government, and would blame the interruption on the president. 

President Trump made vague references to resuming congressional debate about wall construction before fiscal year-end September 30. But retreating on the wall was wise. The wall was a battle President Trump couldn't, for now, win. On the bright side, President Trump didn't come away empty handed. The budget will allocate about $1 billion for border surveillance, and the Department of Homeland Security will proceed with $20 million in redirected funding to build barrier prototypes.

In an effort to appease disappointed and disgruntled supporters, the White House has other immigration-related enforcement victories it can point to. While not as visible or symbolic as a wall, the dramatic 60 percent drop in illegal immigration and vigorous interior removals are big wins, and a hallmark of the young Trump administration. In mid-April, Immigration Customs and Enforcement arrested 95 illegal immigrants in Houston, 86 percent with prior criminal convictions. - More...
Thursday PM - April 27, 2017

PHIL KERPEN: A Remarkable First Hundred Days of Regulatory Reform - President Trump was elected to reverse the massive regulatory power grabs of the Obama administration and, in the words of chief strategist Steve Bannon, to deconstruct the administrative state.

Success would mark the reversal of a century-long trend of Americans being stripped of the authority to make our own decisions about how to take care of ourselves, our families, our homes, and our businesses at the whim of self-styled experts ---- the technocrats, bureaucrats, university professors, and other elites.

Now the pendulum finally is swinging back towards individual freedom.

President Trump has signed 13 resolutions pursuant to the Congressional Review Act (CRA) that overturn specific, individual Obama regulations and bar agencies from ever promulgating a substantially similar regulation without express congressional authorization.

Some of the most significant regulations overturned via CRA include: - More...
Thursday PM - April 27, 2017


jpg Editorial Cartoon: First 100 Days Report Card

Editorial Cartoon: First 100 Days Report Card
By RJ Matson ©2017, Roll Call
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

      

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letter Alaska’s Future: A Tale of Two Legislative Visions By Rep. Paul Seaton - Education is perhaps the single largest responsibility of the Alaska state government. The Alaska House Majority Coalition has made clear that our constitutionally mandated obligation to provide K-12 education and to support the University are amongst our highest priorities. - More...
Thursday PM - April 27, 2017

letter Safe Alaska, Free From Violence By Gov. Bill Walker, Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott - As governor and lieutenant governor, our decisions are infuenced by the roles we held long before we took office. As husbands, brothers and sons, we cherish the strong women in our lives. As grandfathers and fathers, we want to ensure a safer Alaska. It is one of our administration's highest priorities. - More...
Thursday PM - April 27, 2017

letter Income tax By A. M. Johnson - For those supportive of a State (Teacher) Income Tax. Nothing is stopping each of you to submit a check to the State in any amount your little heart desires. Nothing. Aaaaaa, but that is not the goal, the goal is for ME and the remaining private citizens to pay an income tax so that YOU are able to continue to enjoy life at the level you deem or negotiate desirable. - More...
Thursday PM - April 27, 2017

letter Income Tax By David G Hanger - What is the problem, Mr. Abbott; I really do not get you people? Why should we have a state income tax or a state sales tax? Why should this discussion even be considered valid by someone? We are paying a bunch of multi-national oil companies well over a billion dollars a year for the privilege of getting filthy rich on our oil. Why don’t we just shut down the oil industry? An industry that costs us more than $1.2 billion a year every year for at least the next 10 years is not an industry that needs to exist. - More...
Thursday PM - April 27, 2017

letter A Sales Tax Verses an Income Tax: Which is better for Ketchikan? By Ghert Abbott - In the ongoing standoff between the House and the Senate over the income tax, there is talk that the Senate Majority will offer the House a sales tax and present this as a compromise. So if the choice before us is either a state income tax or a state sales tax, both taxes being superior to essential service cuts, then it is important to evaluate which tax would be better for our town. To determine this we first need to answer four questions: Which tax is the fairer tax, socially and geographically? What would be the economic impacts of each tax? How transparent is the tax and hence how accountable to the taxpayer? And how would each tax apply to Alaskan residents verses non-residents? - More...
Tuesday PM - April 25, 2017

letter Collage Performance By Judith Green - THANK YOU to all the KCC musicians that performed Saturday night at the Ted Ferry Center. A wonderful evening of music once again brought to the community under the direction, guidance and care of Roy McPherson. - More...
Tuesday PM - April 25, 2017

letter A Tip of the Hat By A. M. Johnson - The story in Friday's issue of the USCG service personnel involved with the clean up effort are commendable. A tip of the hat to these fine examples of Americans young folk. That they are exposed to the obvious uncouth ignorant souls that provide the fodder for the reason of such efforts is an embarrassment or should be, to the community. It is apparent that a percentage of the population was disadvantaged by not having proper parental guidance growing up. One only has to reflect on the character of the young folk in the service of our country and those who casually toss trash out of car windows to make a rational judgment as to the quality of the participants picking up and those throwing. - More...
Tuesday PM - April 25, 2017

letter Income Tax proposal By Kelli Carlin-Auger - I completely concur with the letter written by Chris Herby regarding the negative implications a state income tax will have on our community. Personally, I support further reducing state government. I have worked locally for state government and I have seen where cuts can definitely be made without a huge impact on the people of Alaska. I even support taking my (and my family's) permanent funds before implementing a state income tax. At least it's more equitable as it impacts all Alaskans and not just those of us working for a paycheck! - More..
Friday PM - April 21, 2017

letter Alaska's oil company owned legislature By Ray Metcalfe - Absent from Alaska's budget debate are comparisons of owner/producer profit sharing agreements in other oil producing countries. How do we compare? The big three want this question off the table. Our news outlets suffer a painful withholding of advertising revenue any time they address this issue. - More...
Friday PM - April 21, 2017

letter Appreciation By Carl Thompson - As I opened up SitNews Wednesday morning after working all night, I saw a photo I took the other day was used as the front page feature photo. I was immediately thrilled to see it there, it is always such a huge compliment and a boost to the ego when she uses one of my photos. It got me to thinking about SitNews and how much I appreciate all the many hours of hard work and thought and love that goes into producing this website for Ketchikan. - More...
Friday PM - April 21, 2017

letter Budget Vote By Rep. Dan Ortiz - For those following the issues facing our state, it’s no surprise that Alaska’s $2.7 billion budget deficit is the biggest issue. For the last five years, Alaska has had a budget deficit. Those deficits have caused the state to burn through at least $12 billion in savings, and we are quickly running out of savings. - More...
Wednesday PM - April 19, 2017

letter Alaska State Income Tax is Wrong By Chris J. Herby - I am writing this because yesterday my day started off with one of the biggest and worst shocks in recent memory. The headlines read AK House OK's income tax. As a community, we must stand up and show our outrage. We have been fooled by a con-man. As a ploy to get elected, Dan Ortiz ran as an Independent when he is clearly a Democrat. He joined with the Democrats in the State House to support our first state income tax in decades. We all realize that our state is in a budget crisis and something needs to be done to correct it. However, a state income tax is the worst possible thing that could be done. This will take hard working Alaskans' paychecks and make them smaller every week of the year. - More...
Wednesday PM - April 19, 2017

letter Kill The State Income Tax By Ken Leland - Lance Clark is right,once established any tax only increases, look at our local sales taxes. Looks like the "Dammed Democrats" with their tax and spend agenda are at it again, although some Republicans are also complicit. - More...
Wednesday PM - April 19, 2017

letter THE GREAT WHITE HYPE By David G Hanger - I actually had high hopes for Rodney Dial’s candidacy, a prospective breath of fresh air into the stale, insipid policies of dullness and torpor that permeates local and state politics. Instead in classic Randian fashion he calls upon us to kill or to displace the poor because they so obviously are the fount of all of our fiscal problems, that if these mooches, leeches, and parasites were to disappear (in Randian terminology to “perish as they should’) all of our financial problems would be solved. He even gives us a long drawn out description of his own PTSD in this regard, all incurred as a state cop. - More...
Wednesday PM - April 19, 2017

letter Degrade North Korean Economy By Donald Moskowitz - President Trump has pointed out the strong linkage between China and North Korea, and  he correctly assumes China can influence North Korea's weapons development program.  We must work with China on resolving this situation, and also on the Chinese encroachment in the South China Sea and the trade deficit imbalance. - More...
Wednesday PM - April 19, 2017

letter Oil Revenue - Senate Budget By RK Rice - "Meanwhile, there is no consideration of oil tax subsidies for which next year's bill will be a cool $1.37 BILLION when the state will earn production taxes of just $87 MILLION. While schools are denied the funding they need, the oil and gas industry rolls along untouched by cuts. The contrast could not be more stark." - More...
Monday PM - April 10, 2017

letter No to Alaska Income Tax By Lance Clark - In response to Rep. Dan Ortiz' letter, he mentioned a modest income tax. There is no such thing. Once an income tax is established it just gets bigger and bigger. - More...
Monday PM - April 10, 2017

letter Budget Proposals; Let your voice be heard By Rep. Dan Ortiz - As expected, it’s been a challenging legislative session, and from here on, the budget will be the forefront of every discussion. Both the House and the Senate are creating Alaska’s budget, but it’s clear that the bodies have differing approaches. - More...
Saturday PM - April 08, 2017

letter Thomas Basin, Spruce Mill Sheet Pile Fix By Charlie Freeman - It is my understanding that the proposed fix for the rusted out sheet pile in front of the old Spruce Mill property is to dump rock and fill in front of it, on the basin side, to contain the sluff. This, if true, may well be the worst idea since the T-pier. - More...
Saturday PM - April 08, 2017

letter Private Health Insurance is gouging us By Michael Spence - According to Alaska Dispatch News, Premera Lifewise of Alaska recently announced it had profited $18 Million from Obamacare plans last year, and another $20 Million in Individual Health plans. These figures were sharply higher than what the company officially predicted which was $2.7 Million.During the same year, it was reported, the deficit-bound State of Alaska subsidized Health Insurance industry in Alaska to the tune of $55 million dollars. - More...
Wednesday PM - April 05, 2017

letter Walker's big take from economy By James Dornblaser - The Ketchikan Borough Assembly faces a dilemma! Sales tax issues are foremost on their agenda. Same is true with most of our state's local governments. They face the question of how to make up the shortfall caused by our governor's brainchild of confiscating 1/2 of all our permanent fund dividends last fall. - More...
Wednesday PM - April 05, 2017

letter Think About It By Donald A. Johnson - I noticed with interest that Lisa Murkowski voted with the Democrats to fund elective abortions thru Planned Parenthood. This is just one example (and there are many) of why we have excessive taxes and the average working man cannot make ends meet. - More...
Monday PM - April 03, 2017

letter HB 159 is a State Government overreach By John Suter - In regards to HB 159, prescription pain medications are regulated by the Federal Government and Medical Professionals.  HB 159 is a State Government overreach, which will consequently cause harm to seniors, the chronically ill and those who are recovering from surgery.  HB 159 is treating monitored prescribed pain killers as if they were illegal drugs.  Taxing prescribed opioid drugs is attacking the weak; those who are undergoing treatment for pain.  Limiting prescribed opioid drugs will make it more difficult for those people who are ill because they will have to rely on others to take them to the pharmacy on a weekly basis vs. a monthly basis.  Right now under Federal Law people who need prescribed pain medicine must see their doctor on a monthly basis.  If HB 159 passes then, those who are in need of pain management will need to see their doctor on a weekly basis.  - More....
Monday PM - April 03, 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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