A federal judge has dismissed Alaska’s court challenge of the roadless rule for national forest land.
Alaska had the last remaining legal case against the 2001 nationwide rule, which prohibits new road construction, reconstruction or logging on large undeveloped areas of national forest land across the U.S. That includes parts of the Tongass and Chugach national forests in Alaska.
U.S. District Court judge Richard Leon ruled this month that the state missed a six-year deadline for mounting its legal challenge.
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Early Saturday morning the U.S. Senate passed a budget, a first in four years.
Joining us from the Capitol to recap the vote and what it means for Alaska is APRN’s Washington correspondent Peter Granitz.
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A move to reduce funding for a new sex trafficking investigation unit has one high-profile critic: Alaska First Lady Sandy Parnell.
Parnell appeared in front of the Senate finance committee on Saturday to ask them to reconsider the State Trooper budget. It was her first time testifying before legislators.
Legislators stripped the $827,200 allocation from the governor’s budget because the troopers did not investigate any trafficking crimes last year. The first lady found that reasoning wanting.
“The reason given for cutting the funding, however, is exactly why the funding is needed: Because sex trafficking is a hidden crime that must be unearthed by investigators,” said Parnell. “Its victims do not self-report.”
Parnell added that right now, state troopers have limited experience in recognizing the signs of sex trafficking. She said sex trafficking cases are especially difficult to recognize, and that victims may not even realize what’s happening to them.
“The girls’ identification and cell phones are taken. They are physically threatened and abused,” said Parnell. “And sadly, the girls have bonded with their captors.”
Reducing sex trafficking has been a key issue for both the governor and first lady as part of the “Choose Respect” initiative.
The Senate finance committee is currently reviewing the operating budget and is slated to consider changes to it this week. Money for the sex trafficking unit was included in the House version, and any differences between the two documents will have to be reconciled.
The Sitka herring fishery went on two-hour notice today at 11 a.m. It means if Fish & Game calls an opening, the fleet has at least two hours to make it to the location of the fishery.
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Interior Alaska farmers are losing money, but there’s hope for the industry. That’s the conclusion of a nationally recognized agricultural researcher who recently completed a study of Fairbanks area farming.
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How to successfully live off the grid in remote areas is the subject of a new book called “The Alaska Homesteader’s Handbook: Independent Living on the Last Frontier.”
The book features profiles and how to tips by Alaska homesteaders and offers practical advice on a wide range of topics from How to age game meat to packing horses for the backcountry to safely crossing rivers.
The book’s authors Tricia Brown and Nancy Gates divided 44 homesteader interviews. Nancy said it was a bit intimidating to go to their homes and ask personal questions but she says once she did, it was so interesting, she couldn’t take notes.
“Because I was so riveted by their expressions and by how they looked off in the distance and how they looked at their wives and smiled at certain, and so I started taking a tape recorder so I could get all of the words and still be able to watch their faces,” Gates said.
Building root cellars, feeding your family and how to handle isolation are also covered, along with many other useful wilderness survival tips. Tricia Brown says they wanted to cover the entire state because challenges vary by region.
“I talked with the Helmericks family that lives on the Colville River on the Arctic coast, and they’re second generation, actually have kids and grandkids there,” Brown said. “Their difficulties vary greatly from Steve Axelson who’s in a boat in Southeast.”
“So that whole aspect was extremely fun because we understand the breadth of Alaska and how it has all these micro climates and ways of living, but our outside readers don’t always.”
Nancy Gates says the book won’t give you everything you need to live off the grid, but does help you consider what those needs are and how to cope with things that will happen. She says the last homesteader in all of America is living here. His name is Kenneth Deardorff.
“He told us how to live in a tent in the winter and he told me about how he didn’t sleep on a cot because having cold air underneath you it was hard to stay warm enough, so he would build up snow, he would shovel the snow away from where the woodstove was going to go inside the tent and he would pile that where he was going to sleep and he would put caribou skins over that and then his bedding on top of that,” Gates said. “And he’d always arrange it so he could reach the woodstove and put in kindling and get the fire going before he had to get out.”
The women say there is a difference between the latest survival movement, called preppers and Alaskan homesteaders who were practical preppers. Not preparing for the end of anything, but with an eye toward living in the moment, being in Alaska and being self reliant. They also found that most homesteaders learned a lot from local Native people about how to survive. Tricia Brown says Dick Proenneke’s book “One Man’s Wilderness” attracted many people to Alaska in the 70s. One of the people they profiled, Roy Corral, had a copy.
“He had Dick Proenneke’s book in his cabin in the Brooks Range and then while he was away trying to make money so he could live without money, a bear broke into his cabin and ate the book,” Brown said. “He said there was some of Dick Proenneke’s words here and some of Dick Proenneke’s words there. So yeah, “One Man’s Wilderness” got spread around a little bit.”
The Alaska Homesteader’s Handbook is available now.
It’s a Wednesday afternoon and the Juneau-Douglas High School gymnasium is full. In Division C – which is roughly ages 32-42 – 7-year defending champ Kake is playing Hydaburg. Tournament co-chair and player Edward Kotch from Klukwan says it’s for more than just the basketball.
“They come back every year so they could meet their friends from other communities ‘cause it’s so hard for people to travel around in Southeast. Some of them come to barter for native foods. We have a lot of people out in the commons selling their beadwork. They reminisce about the old times, the old timers do, and the younger ones watch and say I’m going to be like them when I get older,” Kotch said.
Kotch guesses that 95 percent of players are Alaska Native. It’s all about the economics.
“Since it’s a fundraiser, the communities with the biggest crowds are the ones who get invited because we need the crowd to come in and that’s how we give our money to other people,” Kotch said.
And when a team from a village plays, much of the village comes with them.
“A long time ago in the villages there really wasn’t a lot to do but they had ANB and ANS camps so they built big halls and they used the halls as gymnasiums and that where people gathered to burn some energy and they just got to be real competitive in basketball and they used to take seine boats from village to village so they could compete,” Kotch said.
One of the guys who used to take a seine boat to play is hall of famer William Bean. He’s on the top bleacher of the Kake cheering section. He’s watching his son, point guard Rudy Bean.
“A lot of the old timers says he plays just like his old man, and I’ll take that as a compliment because he’ll run up 50 points if you let him,” Bean said.
William’s wife Lucile is holding their grandson – Rudy’s 2-year old son who is evidently already dribbling and shooting. William won his first championship in 1966 and watches the game intently. Kake’s 7-year reigning championship status is being threatened by a highly competitive Hydaburg. The play is intense, but so is the sportsmanship. Many opposing players help each other off the floor and shake hands after fouls.
“The interplay between the different towns and the competition trying to outdo one another by playing the game of basketball is a lot of fun,” Bean said.
As a hall of famer he’s given lot of himself to the game, but he says it’s taught him too:
“It got me to realize that as you live your life, just like the game of basketball, people are watching you so when we play, you are playing in front of people, its show time, you’ve got to conduct you self in a manner, you’re entertaining, so train hard, be a good athlete, and the people will enjoy watching you,” Bean said.
And that’s become as much a part of culture in Southeast as anything else. Despite some valiant efforts by Kake, Hydaburg wins comfortably. Unfortunately for Kake and Rudy, their reign comes to an end. Hydaburg’s hall of fame center Sid Edenshaw gives credit to some young new speed on his team, and humbly ignores his own part in the win:
“Of course it keeps me in good health and that helps, but I made a lot of friends in the northern communities. And just to come up here and get together and see friends since 1983. I got a ton of friends from all the villages,” Edenshaw said.
Friends, good health, community, and competition–all to raise money for those in need. Seems like a good game.
Hydaburg C went on to win on Thursday and Friday, but lost to Hoonah in Saturday night’s championship game. Angoon won division B and Klukwan won the Masters division.
A series of public meetings in Anchorage is aimed at gathering input from residents on an update of a master plan for the Ted Stevens International Airport. Federal Aviation Administration regulations require an airport master plan that envisions short, medium and long term plans for airport devel0pment
The airport master plan does not mean expansion or construction is imminent. The outcome of the process is a plan for growth, according to Evan Pfahler, project manager with the Florida aviation engineering and design company Reynolds, Smith and Hills. Pfahler hosted this week’s meeting. He says although Ted Stevens International Airport is operating now at a slower rate than in the past, future growth is on the horizon.
”Passenger enplanements were at their peak in 2008, and the airport handled the most cargo in any given year in 2006. However, we are still forecasting growth to occur, and eventually we’ll see new record passenger numbers, new record cargo numbers, although that rate of growth, that overall rate of growth, will be a little slower than forecast back in 2007, about half the rate of growth. “
Pfaler says a master plan update will take about a year and a half to complete. The last actual airport expansion was finished in 2005 with the opening of the C Concourse
”And so the facilities are going to continue to need improvements in order to accommodate that overall growth throughout this twenty year planning horizon.”
The meeting was the fourth in a series, and more of them are coming up. Planners want input from residents of Anchorage on what is the best way to prepare for future expansion. Questions from the public ranged widely and reflected concerns about parking, expansion into park areas, and disposal of runoff from de-icing solutions. Audience members spoke into a wireless microphone passed around the room so everyone could hear. One man asked
” Is Fairbanks currently going through a master plan update also, and how much of a competitor with cargo would you say they are to Anchorage?”
” The answer to the first question is ‘Yes’, the Fairbanks international airport is conducting a master plan update as we speak. And given the fact that the Alaska International Airport System owns and operates both airports, Anchorage and Fairbanks, there is no competition because they have the same ownership structure and the same customers.”
Working groups have been established at prior meetings during the fall of last year to represent residential, environmental and business interest groups. A Technical Advisory Committee represents commercial airlines, airport leaseholders and the FAA.
Airport facility requirements do not determine whether a facility should be built, or where it should be built or even what it ought to look like, Pfaler told meeting goers. Requirements merely outline the additional facilities that will be needed to meet potential demand, and requirements depend on the forecast of aviation activity.
”The forecast of aviation activity for this study was prepared under the Alaska International Airport System Planning Study, which looked at future activity levels, not just for Anchorage International Airport, but also for Fairbanks International Airport. “
The results were presented in September at an earlier open house, he said, and that data from those studies is being used in other projects, such as noise level studies for both the Anchorage and Fairbanks airports. Another public meeting is scheduled for May. Details can be found at
A series of public meetings in Anchorage is aimed at gathering input from residents on an update of a master plan for the Ted Stevens International Airport. Federal Aviation Administration regulations require an airport master plan that envisions short, medium and long term plans for airport development.
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A bill that would require a longer probationary period for teachers has attracted opposition from labor organizations, who say it’s an attack on job security.
Right now, public school teachers must be employed by a district for three years before they can earn tenure. During that period, teachers can be let go without cause. But after that, school districts must notify teachers and put them on an improvement plan before choosing not to renew their contracts, barring extreme circumstances.
Rep. Tammie Wilson, a Fairbanks Republican, would like to see that probationary period expanded to five years. At a committee hearing for her bill, she
“The reason I brought the bill forward was because I was approached by many superintendents and principals throughout Alaska, who believe that if they had more time to evaluate a teacher, they would have better results,” said Wilson.
Representatives from the Mat-Su School District offered support for the bill, describing the process of terminating a tenured teacher as “relatively impossible.”
Wilson also said her intent is to give teachers more time to develop their skills before districts have to decide whether to keep them on and grant them tenure, or terminate them.
“We want to be fair to the teacher and make sure that they have had time to get their feet on the ground and be effective,” said Wilson. “I don’t think this is about keeping ineffective teachers longer. I think it’s actually giving them more time what they really are capable of.”
But teachers’ unions from across the state questioned that logic. They called in to say that the bill isn’t about accommodating educators, but rather an attack on job security.
Joe Boyle is the president of the Mat-Su Education Association, and he says the change would make it harder for the state to attract teachers.
“For five years, you’ll have no job protection,” testified Boyle. “If an administrator needs to make room for a friend of family member, you’re gone. If you ask too many questions as a staff meeting, you’re done.”
The bill is being held in committee for more testimony.
The executive in charge of Shell’s troubled Arctic drilling program is stepping down.
David Lawrence was Shell’s vice president for North American exploration. He’s been with the company for almost 30 years. Now, a spokesman says he’s leaving “by mutual consent.”
Shell won’t say whether Lawrence’s departure has anything to do with the 2012 drilling season. But it’s only been a week since the Department of the Interior released its review of Shell’s Arctic program. Interior’s investigators said Shell wasn’t fully prepared for the logistical challenges it faced in the Arctic.
Lawrence made headlines a year ago when he told a Dow Jones reporter that drilling in the Arctic would be “relatively easy.” He said the oil Shell is pursuing in the Alaskan Arctic is located in shallow, low-pressure areas that were simpler to access than other deposits.
A Shell spokesman declined to comment on Lawrence’s departure.
The recent reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act had many applauding its new protections for LGBT victims and illegal immigrants.
All three members of Alaska’s Congressional delegation supported the bill.
One of the reauthorization’s new, more controversial provisions – granting tribal courts jurisdiction over non natives for domestic violence crimes committed in Indian Country – has reopened a long-simmering debate about tribal power in Alaska.
Myron Naneng is the president of the Association of Village Council Presidents. He says tribes in the Lower 48 are celebrating the new authority they’ve won.
But not in Alaska because, Naneng says, the state does not recognize tribal powers.
“It’s the state’s position that anyone who moves through the villages who’s not a tribal member should not be handled by a local tribal court. But we move into urban areas ourselves, and we’re subject to state courts,” Naneng said.
The federal government still recognizes Alaska tribes, even though most relinquished aboriginal rights and territory, known as Indian Country, when Congress passed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Residents in Metlakata opted out of ANCSA. Metlakatla is the only reservation in the state, and the only federally recognized Indian County in Alaska.
Senator Lisa Murkowski inserted an amendment in the Violence Against Women Act that, she says, was clearly designed to ensure Metlakatla’s increased court jurisdiction.
“It was very clear that it was designed to be implemented in Indian Country. In Alaska, the only Indian Country, the only reservation, is Metlakatla. So I wanted to make sure that Metlakatla was going to be treated similarly to all other reservations, to all other land in Indian Country,” Murkowski said.
But there’s been push back from Naneng and others who say more should have been done to make sure the new provision applied to all Alaska tribes.
Senator Murkowski says the Violence Against Women Act was not the place to hash out territorial disputes. And to the tribes who were looking to gain increased rights, she says that conversation can be had at a later time.
“I think there are some who saw this as an opportunity to gain an inch, and then build on it from there,” Murkowski said.
The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the state’s lack of Indian County in 1998. Senator Murksowski says Congress would need to amend the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act to create Indian Country.
John Havelock was the Alaska Attorney General when the Native Claims Settlement Act passed. He says the Act was described as an alternative to what at the time was considered failing reservation system and was not designed to take away tribal authority.
“There was not any side discussion of tribal authority. In fact I think a lot of people assumed that the village corporation system would replace any tribal jurisdiction. But when you think about it and look at it, you say, well wait a minute,” Havelock said.
Mike Geraghty is the current Attorney General for Alaska.
“The state’s position is that we’re in favor of the law as it currently exists and the jurisdiction the tribal courts already have,” Geraghty said.
Geraghty says state courts have jurisdiction over the entire state.
“These people, whether they’re members or not members of a tribe, are also citizens of the State of Alaska. They have Constitutional rights under the state constitution,” Geraghty said.
In Indian Country, tribal courts have sole jurisdiction within the designated boundaries and state courts have none.
“I’m not in favor of disrupting that balance, and creating, you know 229 checkerboard, 229 tribal court jurisdictions. Where the physical boundaries would be, who knows,” Geraghty said.
Because there are not defined borders like the reservation system has. Geraghty says the state cooperates with tribal courts on issues under the Indian Child Welfare Act and child support cases. It also recognizes and enforces protective orders from certain tribal courts.
Senator Murkowski says the state needs to be pushed on the issue of tribal jurisdiction that the state has for too long feared relinquishing any authority to the tribes.
She says she’s introducing a plan that would “cross deputize” village public safety officers. It would allow them to hand out punishments throughout a village.
“Fines, or forfeiture, or fines, or community service, or even banishment, and it gives them that authority. This is something we’ve tried to get the state to come around on. I think we’ve made huge progress ,” Murkowski said.
The plan is being reviewed by both tribal leaders and state officials.
And in Murkowski’s eyes, it gives the state a chance to see there is nothing to fear in granting tribes more authority.
Anchorage Assembly member Paul Honeman is trying to slow down the process to pass a controversial Anchorage ordinance that would limit unions. He introduced a resolution at a work session at city hall Friday.
Honeman proposed a resolution that would postpone action on the ordinance for six months. He says there are still too many questions about the overhaul of labor law to move forward.
Honeman’s resolution can be adopted by the Assembly with 6 votes. It’s essentially a directive to the Assembly.
“It gives us the time, the Assembly, the administration, labor organizations and outside labor interest groups, to set down in a collaborative manner, in a work committee or task force or whatever you want to call it, and literally pick apart this ordinance,” Honeman said. “I mean you hear one side, you schedule a week letter, you hear another side, and each of the assembly members still have lists of questions coming through.”
Although a new version of the ordinance was presented at the work session, several members expressed concern that the document did not incorporate some changes that members were expecting to see. The proposed ordinance was announced on February 8th by Mayor Dan Sullivan. It would limit union longevity and performance pay, benefits, and eliminate binding arbitration along with strikes. It would also allow some municipal jobs to be contracted out. Sullivan says the changes are needed to keep costs down, and the ordinance must be rushed because of upcoming union negotiations. Unions leaders representing 2,200 or so municipal employees offered a one year wage freeze in exchange for tabling of the ordinance, but the Sullivan administration turned them down. Honeman plans to introduce his resolution at Tuesday’s regular Assembly meeting, the same meeting at which the ordinance is scheduled for action.
The U.S. Arctic Research Commission is in Bethel for their 100th meeting. The Commission is an independent federal agency that helps plan arctic research goals on the national level.
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Dozens of dance groups will be performing this weekend in Bethel at the annual Cama-I Dance Festival. One of them will be a student group from the village of Quinhagak. The students had to receive special permission from their elders to Dance, after it was banned in the village for decades.
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Muir is one of the most renowned naturalists of the last two centuries. President Theodore Roosevelt turned to Muir when planning America’s first National Parks. In the late 1800s, Muir decided to journey to the far north. And the first stop on his great Alaskan expedition was Wrangell Island in the Inside Passage. KSTK’s Shady Grove Oliver traces the history of Muir in Wrangell from his first steps on the island to his continued influence today.
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This week we’re heading to a city- the capitol city to be more specific: Juneau. Ricardo Worl is CEO for Tlingit Haida Regional Housing Authority.
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Instead of the usual businesswear worn in the Alaska State Capitol, many female legislators are wearing kuspuks, the traditional and comfortable Inupiat-Yupik garment not often seen in boardrooms. It’s also being adopted by some men in the capitol.
On this particular Friday, Senate Secretary Liz Clark’s kuspuk is getting a lot of attention.
“Somebody told me the fabric is called Fairy Frost so it’s sort of a turquoise blue and it’s got the Fairy Frost trim with some red ric-rak over top. It also has the multi-colored cat heads lining the hood and the pocket. It’s more a dress length with a ruffle. It feels like a mumu to wear so it couldn’t be more comfortable.”
Clark owns five kuspuks. She and other legislative staff easily joined what’s become a tradition among legislators, who started wearing kuspuks to work on Friday about a decade ago.
Anchorage Senator Lesil McGuire credits the idea to former representative Mary Kapsner, an Alaska Native from Bethel.
“Back when she was in the House of Representatives serving, she had an aide named Katie Real and they started wearing kuspuks every Friday.”
When Real passed away from an illness, Kapsnor and other women in the House of Representatives continued wearing kuspuks to honor her legacy.
Kuspuk Friday soon spread to the Senate where now it’s part of the Friday uniform for the pages. The Senate Secretaries, the Sergeant-At-Arms, and her assistant also take part in the tradition. Three of these kuspuk-clad individuals on the Senate floor are men. Senate McGuire would like to see every more males embrace kuspuk Friday.
“Part of what we’re trying to do is get more masculine fabrics introduced. Our assistant Sergeant-At-Arms Andy Higgins has come out with a really bold black one with some gold piping so it would be nice to get the Senate President and the Majority Leader wearing a kuspuk as well.”
Eagle River Senator Anna Fairclough served with Mary Kapsner. Most Fridays, Fairclough can be seen wearing a kuspuk. While she enjoys the functional purposes of the garment, like the big pockets, Fairclough says Kuspuk Friday means something more.
“It’s the solidarity per se with the women around Alaska that we know where our roots are at. We know there are traditional values in all cultures across Alaska that need to be respected and it’s our way of embracing that.”
While a kuspuk is a traditional Alaska Native garment, Senator McGuire notes most of those wearing kuspuks on Friday in the Capitol Building are not Native.
“Non-Native Alaskans take pride in celebrating the Alaskan Native Heritage and I think that’s something that I have really enjoyed seeing grow in this building in my thirteen years here. It’s something that I would not say was immediately a part of the culture but it’s certainly become a part of it.”
Wrangell Representative Peggy Wilson owns four kuspuks.
“I love wearing it because it’s so much more comfortable than anything else I wear.”
Freshman Representative Harriot Drummond of Anchorage borrowed a kuspuk from a friend for Kuspuk Fridays. She says it fits her normal, outside-the-capitol style.
“I like wearing hoodies in my off hours and this is an appropriate type of hoodie to wear to work.”
In the usual sea of dark suits and stiff collars in a state capitol, Kuspuk Friday adds a touch of fun, color, and comfort to the work week. It’s also a symbol of Alaska’s diversity of cultures and people.
Over the course of his administration, Gov. Sean Parnell has made an overhaul of the state’s oil tax system a top priority. In previous legislative sessions, his efforts to bring down the overall tax rate on oil companies has been stymied by the Senate. But this week, that body passed an amended version of his plan.
On Thursday, he sat down with APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez to discuss the status of the bill.
What does success look like to you, and do you have any metrics in terms of a hard number of barrels you’d like to see go through the pipeline? And at what point do you say this bill is successful? And when do you say it needs to be revisited?
I think it’s highly speculative question in terms of eliciting a highly speculative answer. But success to me is an Alaskan comeback, an Alaskan comeback on oil production.
The reason I want to see an Alaskan comeback is that I want to see more opportunity for Alaskans from oil. I think there is plenty more oil to be had. I want to see us be competitive and get it for Alaskans.
So a metric for me, I think it’s going to take three to five years before we start seeing new production. But we should see significant investment begin to ramp up in that time frame and I think we need only look to the North Sea and the UK from their recent tax changes and they are now having billions of British pounds sterling being invested in the North Sea for their changes. My recollection is it’s been several years since that occurred.
And so it doesn’t sound like there’s a specific measure then?
No, because this system, every tax regime should be built to last. Unfortunately we found that the current system is not, especially at these high oil prices. We’re missing out. So the bottom line is, it’s got to be competitive across a long time frame and we should start seeing things change in the near term, like three to five years. That way we’re not stuck long term without savings and little to no production.
Is turning things around bending the decline curve, stopping decline, or ramping up production?
For me, it’s maximizing that asset that’s in the ground for Alaskans. So you had senators talking about how there are 9 billion barrels of proven reserves. And stating, what is the problem?
Well, the problem is, companies won’t invest in getting those 9 billion barrels of oil across the next 30 years without a tax regime that makes sense for them to get it. That means Alaskans oil remains locked in the ground, something that minimizes Alaskan opportunity. Like the Senate majority that voted for the bill, I want to maximize opportunities for Alaskans.
Some legislators have said they want to see a fiscal plan with this proposal and also a scenario for what happens if we don’t get [increased production]. Are we going to get that as this bill is being considered?
So, at the beginning of session I met with majority leaderships in the finance committees and with the presiding officers. And I told them I want to be engaged with them on a five-year fiscal plan.
Because, number one, even if no change is made, that means we have to rein in spending even harder given declining production. But part of the principle or result of tax change, is that in the near term, we’re going to need to use our savings to get us through to more production.
So I’m working with House and Senate leadership, engaged in discussions with them in a five year fiscal plan. You saw the first stages of that with Scott Goldsmith speaking up in Senate Finance. I anticipate arriving at a place where we’ll rein in spending, we’ll used budget reserves to get us through to that point of new production.
One of the [Senate] amendments has to do with a three-year sunset … Is that something you would consider?
No, it’s an incredibly stupid idea, and let me tell you why.
When companies plan to invest hundreds of millions and perhaps billions of dollars, they need to recover that capital over 20 years, say. They plug in the tax regime across that time, if there’s a sunset on a tax regime that’s out there three years, five years, seven years, not only do they have the uncertainty of each year’s legislative session where the law could change, they then know that the law will be changed in three or five or seven years. that will chill investment.
But with the sunset, there’s the possibility of renewal.
But it’s about uncertainty. They will not invest where there is legal uncertainty that they could ever recover their investment. So a sunset provision would chill investment in Alaska until that sunset is resolved with another tax regime. It would be worse than the current system.
In that same amendment, there’s a community revenue sharing component with clearer language on how much could be appropriated. The current bill doesn’t have that in there. How do you feel about the state of revenue sharing?
Revenue sharing was originally and currently factored into the progressivity calculations. Because those are going away, we had said let’s just use the corporate income tax account as the accounting mechanism for it. I’m committed to revenue sharing, it will continue at current levels. And the legislature right now has essentially made that same commitment.
You’ve said this [Senate] bill fits with your guiding principles [for an oil tax package]. Are there any changes you’d like to see in the House version?
I have not had enough time to think about any changes. I think any bill can be improved and I’d be happy to get back to you on any changes we plan to advocate for. Given the change that occurred on the floor last night, I had a cursory briefing on what happened and the effects financially on it. But we’re going to look more closely to see if we can make it any better, just like I know the House of Representatives will. “
Gov. Sarah Palin was the one who brought ACES into being. She’s been quiet on this issue in public. Have you been in touch with your predecessor?
I have not. And I’ll speak for myself. ACES was modeled on $60-80 a barrel oil and there was very little discussion about higher price oil situations like we’ve been in recently. And given the history now of what we know happens under ACES, we have five years of history to look at with investment running to Texas and North Dakota and their production turning upwards and ours not. Because of that, change is required at this point in our history and that’s why I’m moving to change it.
The most persistent opposition to the legislation has been from Democrats in the minority in both chambers. And without the numbers to get any of their alternatives heard, they’re using a public relations strategy of sorts. And they have put more effort in making public records requests of your office and talking a lot about transparency. They’ve been saying they haven’t gotten the answers they want [on the oil tax issue]. How do you respond to that?
I think it’s just more political gamesmanship. It’s designed to distract us from the goal of maximizing Alaskans opportunity. And here’s what I mean. They’ve asked for information. The legislature has their consultants. The administration has their consultants. Between our two sets of consultants, there have been, 21 presentations from these experts in these committees where they can be asked out in the open for information.
So the notion that individual legislators, 60 of them, should be able to make their own individual requests when they have their own is the height of political gamesmanship. It’s not reality.
Are you alluding to [Democrats’] claim that you’ve been keeping consultants on lock that you have previously hired?
Yeah, welcome to the world where they pay for their consultants as legislators and the administration pays for our consultants, and then they both go to the committee table in the open-air public hearing to get evaluated.
In this case, they’ve had 21 different opportunities to ask consultants questions. So, again, I think it’s political gamesmanship. I’d rather see them focus constructively on creating opportunities for new production and new jobs for Alaskans.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I think Sen. [Charlie] Huggins said it best when he told about meeting that young Alaskan man working in North Dakota. It was a very personal story about a young man who had to leave the state to find a job in the oil patch, which is what he wanted to do. And when that young man looked Sen. Huggins in the face and said, and you fix it so I can work in Alaska? That’s what strikes home for me.
This is about creating opportunity for him. I’ve already had — and Sen. Huggins has already had — a wonderful life of opportunity here in Alaska. Sen. [Pete] Kelly referenced it. This is for our kids and our grandkids. This change, brining about new production, will create an economy here for generations now. And I’m not willing to sacrifice that without a fight. And Alaskans deserve more than political spin and a pr campaign has been mentioned. They deserve serious work. And I think they’re getting it, they got it from this Senate and I think they’re getting it from the House as well.
The Elia Salafie Memorial Sled Dog Race and K300 Camp Out Race are happening this weekend.
The three-day Salafie Memorial race starts this Friday and is put on by the Bethel Sprint Musher’s Club.
Organizer John Simon says the race is named in honor of the late Elia Salafie, a Bethel musher who ran a Bethel sprint kennel in the 60’s.
He says even though many mushers today may not know who Salafie was, it is still important to honor him and his contribution to local mushing; he was instrumental in organizing sprint races over forty years ago.
This year’s course starts across from the small boat harbor in Bethel and goes upriver to Joe Pete’s fish camp and then along the wood cutting trail toward the bluffs behind Napaskiak and then back to Bethel.
The first two days mushers sprint 25 miles, and on Sunday the course is extended to 30 miles.
John Simon called this year’s course “challenging.”
The purse has been raised this year to at total of $25,000—with the winner taking home $4,500.
14 teams or less are expected to race this year.
Also this weekend is the K300’s annual Camp Out Race.
The race starts at 11 am Saturday with a noncompetitive start up the Gweek 45 miles to a camping spot where teams, friends and fans are welcome to camp out for the night.
The real race starts 11 am on Sunday with the dash back home toward Bethel.
The total purse is $8,250 this year.
The K300 Junior Classic is also coming up on Wednesday March 27th.