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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
April 25, 2017

Front Page Feature Photo By CARL THOMPSON

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Front Page Feature Photo By CARL THOMPSON ©2017

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Alaska: Income Tax up in the Senate - Today was the first opportunity in the Alaska Senate to hear one component of the Alaska House’s sustainable fiscal plan, a state income tax.  Although the bill is 28 pages long, most of it is technical stuff; however, the proposal itself is not that complicated.

The Senate Labor and Commerce Committee also announced today they will hear from the public on the prospect of an income tax beginning at 6 pm tonight.  You are asked to sign in at your local Legislative Information Office (in Ketchikan, the LIO is located in the White Cliff Building.  If you are not able to make it there and would still want the opportunity to testify, you can contact the Chair of Labor and Commerce to arrange a call-in. That number is 907-465-4968.

Quoting a news release from Senate Labor and Commerce Committee chairwoman Sen. Mia Costello (R-Anchorage), if the income tax backed by the House Democrat Majority and the Governor becomes law, Alaska would have to hire at least 60 new state employees to stand up its very own ‘Alaska IRS’.

Implementation details for the Alaska Department of Revenue to write regulations, collect, audit, and enforce the proposed income tax were among the matters heard today in Juneau, after the income tax bill passed the House and was assigned to the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee.

The tax is expected to collect nearly $700 million from Alaskans’ wages, retirements, trust income and business earnings. About 60 percent to 65 percent of that $700 million will come from households with income under $250,000 per year. The 110-person Tax Division would add at least 60 new positions to administer the tax, with immediate start-up costs estimated at $14 million.

“I am personally opposed to an income tax, and more so after hearing the details surrounding this proposal by the House,” said committee chairwoman Sen. Mia Costello (R-Anchorage). “We shouldn’t be collecting working Alaskans’ wages just so we can increase spending and grow government. I’d rather we diversify our economy by supporting our workers and our private sector, instead of trying to diversify our revenue streams by collecting new taxes.”

The Senate Majority has offered a solution to the state’s fiscal problems that relies on budget reductions, use of Permanent Fund earnings, and other state reserves, and does not require new income taxes as supported by the House Democrat Majority.

“Our economy is already under siege, with a recession pushing unemployment higher and significant job losses in our core sectors,” said Sen. Costello. “The administration acknowledged that adding new taxes will thwart any economic recovery with a ‘drag factor’. I look forward to hearing from national experts tomorrow on more precise consequences to our economy.”

Basic Details:

According to basic details provided by Sen. Berta Gardner, (D-Anchorage) in a newsletter released today, the bill establishes a broad-based tax for residents and non-residents based on Adjusted Gross Income (AGI, or line 37 of your 1040 federal tax return).  AGI means income after deductions, rents, and other exemptions have been made.  Whatever is taxable at the federal level, generally, will be taxable at the state level.  This includes federal calculations for social security, pensions and annuities, etc. which are calculated out before the AGI. Every Alaskan would be eligible for a $4,000 exemption for themselves and their dependents.  Your PFD would also not be taxed.

An adult tax filer starts with the taxable income on line 37 of the Federal form 1040.  From that, the filer deducts $10,300 (or $20,600 for filing jointly with a spouse), then deducts $4,000 for each person in the family, then deducts the full PFD amount for each family member.  The remainder is taxable for the state of Alaska at 2.5% for income up to $50,000 and then going up in broad bands.  So, for example, an unmarried legislator with salary of $50,400 and no other income would calculate like this:

Taxable income: $50,400

Less “free” income ($10,300)

Less per person discount ($4,000)

Less PFD ($1,250)

Taxable income: $34,850

2.5% tax rate would be: $871.25

The planned implementation for this would be January 1, 2019, for eligible income to be withheld for the first return to be filed in April of 2020. The intent of this new revenue is to be appropriated for education.

What it costs and brings in to the state:

The cost to the state for operating this tax is projected to be about 1.5% after implementation. Projected revenues are approximately $687 million in 2020, according to Sen. Gardner.

How this stacks up compared to elsewhere:

Sen. Gardner wrote in a newsletter that Alaska is the only state that does not use some form of broad-based tax to fund state services.  Forty-nine other states have an income, sales, or property tax, or combination of two or three, to fund government services.  With implementation of HB115 as currently written, Alaska would still have the lowest tax rate in the nation, and keep a tax deductible PFD of $1,250.

So how does this impact Alaskans?

As of right now, there are two fiscal plans. The House plan is comprehensive, sustainable and covers the deficit by restructuring the PFD and capping the dividend at $1250 (SB26), oil and gas tax reform (HB111) and a modest income tax (HB115). The Senate plan caps the dividend at $1,000 and makes deep cuts to the budget, specifically targeting Pre-K, K-12 and University, healthcare, and social services.

According to the details provided by Sen. Berta Gardner, here are a few areas of economic importance and how they would be affected by varying approaches to bridging the budget gap:

Job Losses: 

According to ISER, (The Institute for Social and Economic Research), cuts to state workforce and broad based cuts to the state budget result in the greatest amount of jobs lost as compared to a progressive income tax or PFD cuts. Using their lowest estimates for reference, broad based cuts would yield a loss of 980 jobs, PFD cuts would yield a loss of 558, and a progressive income tax would yield a loss of 544. Direct cuts to the state workforce yield a startling loss of 1,414 jobs. - More...
Tuesday PM - April 25, 2017


Alaska Science:
Researchers solve the century-old mystery of Blood Falls By MEGHAN MURPHY - A research team led by the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Colorado College has solved a century-old mystery involving a famous red waterfall in Antarctica. New evidence links Blood Falls to a large source of salty water that may have been trapped under Taylor Glacier for more than 1 million years.

Researchers solve the century-old mystery of Blood Falls

Blood Falls is a famous iron-rich outflow of water that scientists suspected was connected to a water source that may have been trapped under an Antarctic glacier for more than a million years.
Photo by Erin Pettit

The team’s study, published in the Journal of Glaciology, describes the brine’s 300-foot path from beneath Taylor Glacier to the waterfall. This path has been a mystery since geoscientist Griffith Taylor discovered Blood Falls in 1911.

Lead author Jessica Badgeley, then an undergraduate student at Colorado College, worked with University of Alaska Fairbanks glaciologist Erin Pettit and her research team to understand this unique feature. They used a type of radar to detect the brine feeding Blood Falls.

“The salts in the brine made this discovery possible by amplifying contrast with the fresh glacier ice,” Badgeley said.

Blood Falls is famous for its sporadic releases of iron-rich salty water. The brine turns red when the iron contacts air. - More...
Tuesday PM - April 25, 2017

Pleistocene Park an experiment in adventure

Colin Edgar, top left, helps transport a reindeer with people working for Pleistocene Park in Siberia. To his left is Sergey Zimov.
Photo by Anastasia Zimova

Alaska Science: Pleistocene Park an experiment in adventure By NED ROZELL - More than 700 donors believe in an attempt to recreate the ice age in Siberia. The operators of Pleistocene Park have raised more than $100,000 in a crowdfunding effort to bring bison and yaks to eastern Russia. The creators think the animals will help convert tundra to ancient grasslands that will slow global warming.

An Alaska researcher has visited Pleistocene Park five times. He has affection for the directors and an admiration for their lofty mission: “Turning the Arctic into a northern Serengeti and stopping permafrost degradation on a big scale.”

Colin Edgar is a research technician at UAF who works on devices that measure greenhouse gases wafting from the tundra. He installs, fixes and gathers data from carbon dioxide and methane meters near Toolik Field Station and Bonanza Creek Experimental Forest in Alaska. Until funding fell off, he also traveled on occasion to Pleistocene Park.

Edgar’s trips from Fairbanks to the North-East Scientific Station in Cherskiy, Russia, took four days. The station, a center for scientists visiting far eastern Siberia, is the jumping-off point for Pleistocene Park.

Pleistocene Park is a 50-square-mile fenced-in patch of tundra and larch trees in lowlands off the Kolyma River. There, Nikita Zimov leads a project to restore the northern ecosystem that existed at the time of the mammoths. His father, Sergey Zimov, envisioned and initiated Pleistocene Park.

The Zimovs are bringing in large, cold-adapted creatures descended from those that roamed the landscape during the last ice age, which ended about 11,500 years ago. In adventurous missions to other parts of Russia, they have retrieved reindeer, musk oxen, horses, bison and elk. - More...
Tuesday PM - April 25, 2017




DAVE KIFFER: Travel: It's an Adventure - Few things are a relaxing as the slow descent of a jet into a major city.

You do that gradual descent through the clouds and then the familiar outlines of the area come into view. Lakes, rivers, housing developments. other aircraft yawing to the get out of the way. Eventually the airport appears and that lovely smooth touchdown follows. Back safely on terra firma because the only absolute in aviation is that takeoffs and landings must equal. And in big cities it seems like both the ingress and the egress to the friendly skies is usually fairly smooth.

This, of course, is something we know very little about in Southeast Alaska. The weather here is often problematic and we all have a personal carryon full of horror stories about meteorologically challenged landings at our airports. It simply comes with the territory.

But things are a little different when one of those challenged landings is a bit "out of context."

Por ejemplo, I was landing in Seattle recently after a brief jaunt to the Southwest and things got waaaaayyyy "out of context." - More...
Tuesday PM - April 25, 2017


JEFF LUND: Catastrophic conjunctions - The motor sputtered and stopped, but I had two gallons of gas in reserve. 

I added them, but none of the 70 horses would start. 

The weather was pretty calm, but the wind was pushing us away from land. 

I told my buddy to start paddling, but we only had one oar. 

My emergency locator was out of power, but we had cell phone reception. 

I texted a buddy, but he was at work. 

We got to shore, but the motor still wouldn’t start. 

We flagged down a boat and got towed back to the dock. 

We filled the tank and the motor started right up, so we headed back out. 

Disaster is a combination of conjunctions like “and” and “but.” Cause and effect. Do enough right and it might balance a wrong, depending on what that wrong is.  - More...
Tuesday PM - April 25, 2017

Editorial Cartoon: Shopping Online

Editorial Cartoon: Shopping Online
By David Fitzsimmons ©2017, The Arizona Star
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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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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2017 Celebration of the Sea Art Walk - Ketchikan, Alaska - Ketchikan Arts & Humanities Council

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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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