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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
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Alaska: Senate Passes Bill to Limit Government Spending; Takes Annual Draw from Permanent Fund By MARY KAUFFMAN - Senate Bill 26, the Republican plan to restructure and reduce the Permanent Fund passed the Alaska Senate with a vote of 12 to 8 Wednesday. The Alaska Senate Majority passed what they are calling major components of a solution to Alaska’s fiscal challenge. Senate Bill 26 will limit government spending and will take an annual draw from the Permanent Fund’s earnings to help pay for a smaller government and maintain a dividend.

“This bill protects and grows the corpus of the Permanent Fund and protects the dividend,” said Sen. Anna MacKinnon (R-Eagle River), co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee. “It uses the earnings as they were intended to be used at the creation of the Permanent Fund, to provide for the people of Alaska when oil revenue no longer could.”

In a prepared statement, Governor Bill Walker said, "The Senate showed great leadership [Wednesday] in passing the Permanent Fund Protection Act. I thank members of the Senate for once again taking a significant step toward building a more stable future for Alaska. Their courageous actions show we are making progress toward a complete solution. I look forward to working with legislators in both chambers to reach the finish line on fixing Alaska."

The bill protects the Permanent Fund for generations by establishing a sustainable percent of market value (POMV) draw to help pay for essential services and guarantees a $1,000 dividend for the next three years. After that, the dividend will be based on a percentage of fund earnings, allowing for modest dividend growth.

“If we do not take action the dividend will go away,” Sen. Hoffman (D-Bethel), co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee. “Inaction is not an option. We need to take the next step to address the fiscal cliff that the State of Alaska is facing today.”

The Alaska Senate Democratic caucus, and several members of the Republican caucus voted No on Senate Bill 26, but it was not enough to stop the bill from advancing to the Alaska House.

According to a public FaceBook statement by the Alaska Senate Democratic Caucus, "This bill is NOT a fiscal plan, and does not address any revenue generating measures to fill the fiscal gap. It only cuts in ways that economists have called the most regressive, and the most hurtful to average Alaskans and the economy. It also takes away critical language which mandates that money for the Permanent Fund Dividend is appropriated AT ALL. That means there is nothing keeping the legislature from voting the dividend away. As Senator Berta Gardner said, "It's disappointing, but not surprising.""

If oil revenue increases in the future, Senate Bill 26 provides a mechanism to return excess funds to the Permanent Fund, growing the corpus of the fund and future dividends, according to an Alaska Senate Majority news release.

“Our fiscal solution cuts spending, limits the growth of government and uses the tools we already have,” said Sen. Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks), President of the Alaska Senate. “A responsible Permanent Fund draw, along with strategic use of our Constitutional Budget Reserve, will resolve our budget problems while protecting Alaska’s private sector. That’s more important than ever as we weather this recession.”

Quoting a news release from the Alaska Senate Majority, the SB 26 satisfies the Alaska Department of Revenue’s principles for restructuring the Permanent Fund. The bill implements a rule-based framework, stabilizes the budget, protects both the Permanent Fund and the dividend, and maximizes the use of the earnings reserve.

The Senate Majority's target is a $750 million reduction in undesignated general fund spending over the next three years, starting with a goal of $300 million in reductions this year.

With prudent use of the Constitutional Budget Reserve as the third-in-line state funding source, after oil revenue and after the Permanent Fund earnings draw, the Senate Majority's solution would be to maintain a $5 billion balance in the Constitutional Budget Reserve (CBR) with the expectation that under this plan, the CBR would start to grow again within five years.

SB 26 places a spending cap of $4.1 billion to limit future budget growth which will be adjusted annually to allow reasonable budget growth with inflation. Not included under the spending cap are dividend payments; debt payments; and future capital projects. - More...
Thursday AM - March 16, 2017

Caribou Appear to Keep up with Warming Arctic - Despite recent changes to the growing season for plants in the Arctic, Alaska, caribou appear to have remained in sync with these changes over the last 30 years.

Caribou Appear to Keep up with Warming Arctic

Lindsay VanSomeren (graduate student UAF) collects forage samples in the foothills of the Brooks Range off the Dalton Highway, North Slope of Alaska.
Photo Credit: David Gustine, USGS

According to a recent study, Alaska caribou do not appear to be facing what is known as a mismatch, created when caribou migrate and give birth to calves at similar timeframes each year, while a warming climate has changed the peak availability of their food to earlier and earlier times of the year.

“We observed long-term changes in temperatures, timing, and the length of the growing seasons, but found little support for a mismatch between caribou and the plants they consume,” said Dave Gustine, lead author of the USGS study, but now working with the National Park Service. - More...
Thursday AM - March 16, 2017

Coastal Alaska: Officials to Test Tsunami Warning System in Alaska - NOAA’s National Weather Service, the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the Alaska Broadcasters Association plan to conduct a test of the tsunami warning communications system on Wednesday, March 29, 2017 at approximately 10:15 a.m. Alaska Daylight Time in coastal areas of southern Alaska. This test will be conducted for portions of coastal communities in Southeast Alaska, the Kenai Peninsula, Kodiak, the Aleutians and Pribilofs. People in Anchorage may see or hear that a tsunami warning has been issued for the Kenai Peninsula.

The emergency test will be broadcast on NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards, as well as local television and radio stations along the southern coast of Alaska. Residents in some communities may hear warning sirens. Some television systems are programmed to scroll a standard emergency alert text message and, in some cases, the message may not contain the word “TEST.” An audio message will state that the message is only a test, but if the audio is unheard, viewers may not realize the message is only a test. - More...
Thursday AM - March 16, 2017


How to conserve polar bears under climate change and maintain subsistence harvest - Polar bears are listed as a threatened species as the ice-covered ocean they depend on for hunting and transportation becomes scarce. Changes in the Arctic Ocean are also affecting the humans who have called this area home and hunted across the landscape for thousands of years.

How to conserve polar bears under climate change and maintain subsistence harvest

Polar Bear on shore.
Photo Credit: Eric V. Regehr(USFWS)

Research from the University of Washington, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey investigates what these changes could mean for subsistence harvest of polar bears -- a practice that has cultural, nutritional and economic importance to many Northern communities.

An open-access study published this month in the Journal of Applied Ecology addresses this question using an improved model of how polar bear populations function.

"A big question in polar bear conservation is: How will habitat loss and harvest interact to affect the status of polar bear populations?" said lead author Eric Regehr, a researcher with the UW's Applied Physics Laboratory who did the work as a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The authors identify ways to maintain subsistence harvest without compounding the negative effects of habitat loss, as long as there is accurate population data and the harvest is responsive to changes in the environment.

"A key takeaway is that, under many conditions, it is possible to identify a rate of harvest -- the fraction of a population to be removed each year -- that doesn't drive down the population or accelerate any potential population declines due to habitat loss," Regehr said.

Currently there are about 26,000 polar bears divided into 19 subpopulations across the Arctic, two of which occur partially in Alaska. The species was listed as threatened throughout its range under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 2008 due to observed and projected loss of sea-ice habitat due to climate change. - More...
Thursday AM - March 16, 2017



DAVE KIFFER: The state seal doesn't get my approval - The other day I was sitting in an office with nothing to do.

This often seems to happen to me. Primarily because I am not smart enough to have a smart phone on my person at all times to distract me in such dire situations

One time I was sitting in a restaurant waiting for a companion to arrive. It was a rare occurrence because in my pocket was my cell phone. I don't normally take it out with me. It is generally bad company, if no other reason than it doesn't respond calmly like Siri when I shout at it for not working correctly.

It's one of those flippy phones where all it does it actually make and receive phone calls. That's it.

Quelle horreur!!

How "last millennium" of me.

If I am bored the best it will do is let me call time and temperature, so I can argue with the computer voice that is always two or three minutes fast and is reading a thermometer that is not close enough to the computer's cooling fan. - More...
Thursday AM - March 16, 2017


JOSEPH CATTO: How a 1960 Paul Newman Film is Relevant to the Refugee Crisis - 'Exodus' was on television the other day. Not having received much sleep the night before, and functionally awake only through the grace of caffeine, I half-expected to shut my eyes midway through the picture.

It is a long one, after all; with commercials, four hours. Unless a movie is of superior quality, something with such a running time rarely appears on the small screen.

Fortunately, I did not nod off, and ended up watching 'Exodus' from beginning to end. What a powerful piece of cinema. It provides much to think about in our age of refugee rancor; from the no-man's lands of Syria to the barrios of Cuba, where millions undoubtedly shake with anger over the cancellation of 'wet foot, dry foot.'

For those who have not seen 'Exodus' or forgot what it is about, the movie chronicles revolution in British Palestine -- how this impacted colonial Protestants, recently-arrived Jews, and generations-resident Muslims. Paul Newman plays the leading role: a Palestinian-born Jewish nationalist who, though having served in His Majesty's military, becomes increasingly hostile toward Crown administration in what he yearns to be globally-recognized as Israel.

Eva Marie Saint portrays an expatriate American nurse who, while being initially uncomfortable around Holocaust-ravaged Jewish refugees, comes to identify with their plight; risking her life to assist them in securing a permanent home in the Holy Land.

The premise of 'Exodus' is based in a World War I-era promise the British government made: Its Palestinian territory would be revamped into a haven for Jews the world over. Britain made this assurance amid a pinch for money and manpower -- things much of European Jewry could well provide. - More...
Thursday AM = March 16, 2017

jpg Political Cartoon: Maddow Loses It

Political Cartoon: Maddow Loses It
By Rick McKee ©2017, The Augusta Chronicle
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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letter RE: Voting to Increase State Spending By Rodney Dial - Regarding this response to Rep. Ortiz’s letter, again, I am voicing my opinions and I am not speaking on behalf of the Ketchikan Assembly… In my letter, I used total spending, all funds, and compared the budget the Governor sent to the house, and the budget after amended by the house majority budget sub-committee process. I didn’t pick and choose one budget or spending item; I didn’t pick different years, just what the legislature has done this session. Total spending… isn’t that what really matters? Anyway, all I did was cut and paste the info from the media which reported the $127 million increase on March 8th, (also reported by the legislative watchdog AK Headlamp on 3/14). They even attached documents from the legislature showing the increase (see below). - More...
Thursday AM - March 16, 2017

letter RE: Voting to Increase State Spending By Rep. Dan Ortiz - Under the State’s constitution, one of the primary tasks of legislators is to adopt a capital and operating budget for the State of Alaska. As a member of the House Finance Committee, that is the most primary of my duties. It is because of these duties that I read with extreme interest the letter written by Rodney Dial and the inaccurate and misleading numbers he presented. Let’s dig into the numbers behind the budget: - More...
Tuesday PM - March 14, 2017

letter Autism, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act By Bill And Jennifer Whicker - We are long-time residents of Prince of Wales Island and Ketchikan, AK and are the parents/guardians of a 23-year-old young man with moderate to severe autism. - More...
Monday AM - March 13, 2017

letter The American Corporate Health Care Act By Michael Spence - Today [Thursday] the Speaker of the House of the US Congress declared that the health care legislation he is promoting will face trouble in the senate if it is not passed as written. - More...
Monday AM - March 13, 2017

letter Leaked budget cuts threaten Alaskan way of life and prosperity of coastal communities By Becca Robbins Gisclair - Alaska would be hard hit with the cuts proposed for just one of the agencies targeted by the Trump administration. Taken together, the proposed budget cuts for NOAA, EPA and the Coast Guard represent a dangerous triple threat that risks hundreds of Alaskan jobs, millions of dollars that flow into the state, and the clean water and healthy fisheries on which Alaska’s economy, culture and way of life is based. - More...
Monday AM - March 13, 2017

letter Our Rep. Voting to Increase State Spending By Rodney Dial My name is Rodney Dial and I am a Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly Member. This letter is my opinion and does not necessarily represent the views of other assembly members.

A few days ago I posted on Facebook how our local Representative Dan. Ortiz, was voting to increase State spending, at a time when the State budget has a multi-billion dollar deficit. Many of you asked me for the specifics….here they are: - More...
Wednesday PM - March 08, 2017

letter WATCH OUT FOR THAT GIANT HOOK By David G Hanger - I had not realized until this latest round of state hearings and testimonies that all of us folks down here in Southeast Alaska are a bunch of welfare kings and queens who have been suckling on the state dole for these past four decades or so. Got guys and gals that are 150 days and more a year away from home even, busting their asses to make their families a living, but, hey, they are just a bunch of goddamned welfare duds, too. It matters not that we already pay the highest tax rates in the state, that as extractive industries shut down here we re-invented ourselves to a considerable degree and established new economies with little to no effectual help from outside sources or entities. We are a bunch of welfare duds; just ask our dear carpetbagging friends in the Anchorage/Fairbanks corridor about the 230,000 or so Alaskans who don’t live in that cesspool of corruption, fraud, and lies. - More...
Wednesday PM - March 08, 2017

letter Transboundary Issues By Rep. Dan Ortiz - I recently introduced a House Joint Resolution regarding Transboundary Mining, and I was pleased to see that it is generating conversation with our B.C. neighbors. On February 26th, an opinion piece by Gavin Dirom was published in SitNews. As President of the B.C. Association for Mineral Exploration, his response focused on the benefits of the B.C. mining industry. I have read his letter and I respect his intent, but there are a few points I would like to clear up. - More...
Wednesday PM - March 08, 2017

letter Open Letter to Commission Hartig By Van G. Abbott - I have just been informed that the additional cost of the Departmental Environmental Control program is perhaps as high as $2000 per year per coastal resident. I had said $500 to $1,000 based on the Ketchikan Daily News frontpage article. Apparently, their quoted cost estimate was $2000 per coastal residential property, not per common collector. My mistake. - More...
Wednesday PM - March 08, 2017

letter Open Letter: Mis-allocated federal funds By A. M. Johnson - The following letter has been submitted to Representative Don Young for consideration and action. Thank you for your publication services. - More...
Wednesday PM - March 08, 2017

letter Open Letter to Rep. Ortiz By A. M. Johnson - Representative Ortiz is asking citizens to contact him with concerns so I will submit this post to his attention. Perhaps noting the potential and maybe current cost of dealing with educational cost of mult-national illegal students on a district, and the various medical potential cost to the state Medicaid program plus other's departments dealing with illegal issues now in existence or potentially to come, Ortiz will be proactive and submit legislation similar to the Missouri statutes. Again, while it may not be a huge issue, every dollar that can be addressed in savings or reduction in services to others than those who are citizens should be considered. - More...
Wednesday PM - March 08, 2017

letter New regulations concerning common outfalls By Bill Elberson - Ketchikan residents that have septic tanks connected to an ocean outfall should check out the State DEC new regulations concerning common outfalls. - More...
Wednesday PM - March 01, 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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