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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska

April 11, 2019

Front Page Feature Photo By TEAGUE WHALEN

Knudson Cove: Northern Lights
15 miles north of Ketchikan.
Front Page Feature Photo By TEAGUE WHALEN ©2019

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GAVEL ALASKA: Live coverage of the Alaska legislature, including committee meetings, Alaska senate and house floor sessions, press conferences and other legislative events. In addition, oral arguments before the Alaska Supreme Court are covered, administration press conferences and briefings, general government activities, and other meetings about legislative issues or of political interest.Watch Live or Watch Archives 360North.org

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Alaska: With $1.6 Billion Budget Deficit Looming, House Passes Operating Budget By Mary KAUFFMAN - Governor Michael Dunleavy wrote on FaceBook today, "While I hope the legislature will pass a responsible budget, I will use every constitutional authority given to me to secure Alaska’s future." Earlier this year, the governor unveiled his proposed FY 2020 budget with $1.6 billion cuts in spending.

And later today, the Alaska House of Representatives voted 24-to-14 to pass an operating budget bill, House Bill 39 which will minimally reduce state spending by as little as $200 million of the $1.6 billion deficit. The bill - or the buck - has been passed to the Alaska Senate where more difficult decisions will have to be addressed.

“We recognize that we have a deficit and must make substantial cuts to keep downward pressure on spending,” House Speaker Bryce Edgmon said. “At the same time, this budget demonstrates our commitment to fund core services and reject measures that would solve our fiscal problems on the backs of Alaska’s most vulnerable.” 

Quoting a news release today from the Alaska House Majority Coalition, "The budget expresses the House Majority’s commitment to streamline government while also protecting schools, public safety, and other critical services that underpin our economy."

“Ideas presented by Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – from the House majority and minority – are in the budget that passed, and each of the governor’s proposed reductions received a vote through the process we followed this year,” said Rep. Neal Foster, who co-chairs the Finance Committee. “No one got everything they wanted, but we reached a strong compromise and look forward to working with the Senate and the administration to finalize the budget.”

Quoting today's news release from the Alaska House Majority Coalition, the $4.3 billion of unrestricted general fund spending was approved for Fiscal Year 2020, meaning there is a $200 million reduction compared to what will be spent in this fiscal year.

Governor Dunleavy has consistently stressed that Alaska no longer has the revenue to support the budgets Alaska has had in the past and has proposed significant budget cuts in order that Alaska lives within its revenue means.

One of the Governor's key messages during his presentations in Ketchikan this week, was to empower Alaskans in this process by allowing Alaskans to vote on a series of constitutional amendments. "Before lawmakers take portions of the PFD, we think you should have a say," Governor Dunleavy posted on FaceBook. The Governor has also stressed no new taxes without a vote of the people in the series of constitutional amendments proposed.

SJR 6, is the Governor's proposed constitutional amendment that will cap government spending and create a savings plan for Alaska. Governor Dunleavy asserts that it is time for Alaska to stop spending money that we don’t have.

Over the last few weeks, the Governor has held statewide discussions outlining his proposed budget and permanent fiscal plan for Alaska. On Monday, April 8th, Gov. Dunleavy was in Ketchikan for a public presentation hosted by the Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber announced well in advance of the Governor's presentation that the luncheon would be open to the public.

In 2015 when the price of a barrel of oil hit $26, the government started using its savings. In the past four years, the government has taken $14 billion out of the constitutional budget reserve to met the gap between the state's expenditures and the state's revenues. Putting into perspective, that $14 billion could have provided electricity for all Alaskans for eternity at a low rate, pension obligations could have been paid off, the bond debt could have been paid down, but the legislators decided to do more with the money.

Today, Alaska has a structural deficit, meaning the state's revenues and the price of oil and the revenues that come from production is not enough to meet the state's expenditures.

Taking money from the constitutional budget reserve and adding to the budget when the state has no revenues to support the budget approved, has resulted in only $2 billion left this year down from a high of about $16 billion. There is about $177 million in the statutory budget reserve - both the constitutional budget reserve and the statutory budget reserve will be gone in approximately 14 months if the state does not arrest the increase in spending. The Governor says if the state can arrest the increase in spending through the Constitutional Amendments he is advocating for the appropriation of savings and spending rule, and the government keeps spending about 2% to 2.5% percent a year, there is a chance the state can get out of deficit spending because the estimate is that in the next five years Alaska will be getting about 200,000 to 300,000 barrels of new oil on the North Slope.


The difference between what former Governor Walker tried and what Governor Dunleavy is proposing, former Governor Walker tried to cover the spending gap by filling the budget deficit with new revenues - the permanent fund and the Permanent Fund Dividend. The difference between the permanent fund and the PFD is the earnings reserve of the permanent fund is available for the legislature to spend. For decades a portion of the permanent fund has been used to fund the Permanent Fund Dividend and the other portion was just put back into the fund. Starting over the last few years, part of the earnings and part of the PFD was used to cover the budget deficit. To increase revenue, nine different taxes failed the legislature that were proposed former Governor Walker failed.

Governor Dunleavy is proposing that the state gets its expenditures more in line with the state's revenues through reducing the budget dramatically. "That approach is causing a great discussion in the state of Alaska." What do we want to pay for, when do we want to pay for it is part of the discussion.

The Governor is proposing a spending and savings rule at about 2% to 2.5% a year. If the state had had this in place since 2006, the wealth that would have been represented by what the state had not spent would be approximately $29 billion dollars in wealth. This could have been put into the permanent fund, could have had free electricity of all Alaskans, could have had a railroad to Canada, or other choices.

Currently, Alaska has $64 billion dollars in the permanent fund and the constitutional budget reserve is down to about $2 billion. If the state had put the $29 billion that was spent into the permanent fund, instead of $64 billion in the fund, Alaska would have a larger fund at about $127 billion. This would have allowed the legislature to take out of the fund $6,400 per person and about 6.2 billion taken out to pay for government. Meaning, if money had been saved in budgeting, Alaska would have had the money to pay for its budgets today and into the future.

In the Governor's presentation in Ketchikan, he said at the rate Alaska is spending, and if nothing changes, what will happen over time is that the earnings of the reserve will be spent down in the Permanent Fund. The Governor said for those who have said over the last two years that all you have to do is take the Permanent Fund Dividend and everything [revenue] will be fine, under SB26 the bill passed last year that allows the government to take $3 billion out of the area's reserve, that $3 billion is designated to be spent between the government services and the people's Permanent Fund Dividend. Governor Dunleavy said at the rate of spending by the government, the Permanent Fund Dividend will be gone in four years. Not only will the government's amount from the $3 billion of SB26 be consumed, the government will also have to consume the people's Permanent Fund Dividend from that amount. - More...
Thursday PM - April 11, 2019

 Iditarod: one of the last Gold Rush towns  By NED ROZELL

Iditarod: one of the last Gold Rush towns
First Avenue in the town of Iditarod, pictured here around its peak in 1911, featured storefront awnings and wooden sidewalks.
Photo by Lomen Brothers, UAF Archives


Alaska Science: Iditarod: one of the last Gold Rush towns By NED ROZELL - The mushers were gone, and so were the 640 dogs that pulled them out of town. A few days earlier, the volunteers who gave life to Iditarod had climbed into their single-engine planes and lifted off the ice, carrying their noise along with them.

Iditarod City was now quiet, except for the whoosh of ravens scanning for frozen morsels in piles of straw. And (Could it be? Yes!) the melancholy howls of a half-dozen wolves, wafting from the derelict buildings 100 yards across the slough.

Iditarod is a lonely place. A century ago, for a few years it was the largest city in Interior Alaska.

A few weeks ago, Bob Gillis and I were the only humans in town, having skied and tundra-walked to Iditarod from the village of McGrath. Moving along on the Iditarod Trail, we had not seen anyone else in four days. It would be three more days before we did, in the village of Shageluk, 60 miles away.

Trying to figure out Iditarod’s story while we were there was like trying to imagine someone’s life by visiting a cemetery. We put the pieces together later, with help from “Iditarod: Portrait of an Alaska Gold Rush Community,” the detailed 1988 Ph.D. thesis of University of Northern Arizona student Billy Mackey.

Iditarod got its start after two prospectors found gold at nearby Otter Creek on Christmas Day, 1908. The first steamship to reach the site of Iditarod arrived from Fairbanks. The Tanana made the 1,000-mile trip via the Chena, Tanana, Yukon, Innoko and Iditarod rivers in June 1910. Ships only made it to Iditarod during high-water periods, like snow-melt time in May and June.

At its peak in September 1910, Iditarod was home to 2,500 people. It was a mature Gold Rush town; many people there had lived through other stampedes. Unlike other boom towns, there was only one recorded murder and one robbery there.

There were no gold mines at Iditarod. Like Fairbanks, the town was the supply and commerce center for nearby diggings. In Iditarod’s case, these were on Flat and Otter creeks.

The Iditarod River and the town’s famous name is “probably an English distortion by prospectors of the name of an Indian village” on the river, wrote Donald Orth in his Dictionary of Alaska Place Names.

Its uplands fringed with young birch trees, Iditarod is surrounded by tundra. The few buildings left in the town, each now resembling a house of cards frozen in the act of falling, are made of milled lumber rather than spruce logs. The wood for construction came from very far away.

Founded late in the Gold Rush, when almost all the other booms in Alaska had busted, Iditarod was born in an era of technological advances, a few of which later turned it into a ghost town. - More....
Thursday PM - April 11, 2019



RICH MANIERI: Forget Trump's Tax Returns, What About Mine? - I don't care about President Trump's tax returns. 

With the filing deadline approaching, I'm far more interested in my tax return. Because as fascinating as the contents of the president's returns might be, it's my own that give me agita.

Of course, I do realize that some Americans, most of whom are House Democrats, care deeply about Trump's tax returns.

They thought Robert Mueller had delivered them a present in the completed Russian collusion investigation. It was all wrapped up in a nice shiny package with a pretty red bow. But inside, the Democrats found only irregular underwear. 

Undaunted, the members of the House Financial Services Committee, led by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who hates Trump more than a canker, now have another object of their obsession -Trump's tax returns.

Because the president has told the Democrats to go pound sand, the Financial Services Committee gave the IRS a Wednesday deadline to hand the returns over. 

On Wednesday, Trump said he won't provide six years' worth of returns for which the Democrats are asking because he's under audit. He also pointed out that he got elected with this issue hanging over his head and those who voted for him didn't seem to care. There's no reason to believe that isn't still the case.

All of this is likely to degenerate into a long, rancorous legal battle. - More...
Thursday PM - April 11, 2019


CARL GOLDEN: Democrats and the Media Still Licking Their Collusion Wounds -It will likely be many months before the dust settles from the "no collusion" bomb dropped by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but one inescapable truth emerged immediately: Never have so many been so wrong about so much for so long.

From members of Congress to a broad segment of the media to assorted academics, intelligence experts and lawyers, Mueller's finding that no evidence existed to prove collusion or coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives demolished their narrative that somehow American voters were duped by a foreign power into supporting a presidential candidate.

Mueller and dozens of seasoned attorneys and investigators spent more than two years and upwards of $30 million to reach a conclusion that Donald Trump's election in 2016 was a legitimate and fairly reached decision, that his campaign did not enter into a surreptitious arrangement with Russian agents to influence the outcome.

In those two years, the American people were bombarded by media reports that Trump's election was tainted by a nefarious plot with a longtime and bitter enemy.

Major television networks joined leading national newspapers in a barrage of "bombshell" revelations purporting to prove that highly placed Trump campaign officials eagerly sought the help of Russian operatives to swing the election. That several of the "bombshells" turned out to have all the power of a wet firecracker was no deterrent and the relentless pursuit of even greater and often poorly-sourced erroneous reports merely providedTrump opportunities to gleefully ridicule "fake news."

Members of Congress tripped over one another in their quest for facetime on cable and network shows, sharing their views with political and media figures of the same mindset - Trump was an illegitimate president whose election was fraudulent and, as a result, should be impeached. - More...
Thursday PM - April 11, 2019

jpg Political Cartoon: Russian Collusion Hole

Political Cartoon: Russian Collusion Hole
By Rick McKee ©2019, The Augusta Chronicle, GA
Distributed to paid subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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jpg Opinion

Dunleavy must learn to balance a budget By Eric Muench - Budgeting is a matter of balancing revenue and expense. A shortfall of revenue to cover family expenses requires rethinking the budget. Luxuries like entertainment and vacation travels can be cut back or eliminated. But minimal living expenses like food, clothing and housing need to be paid, and if revenues won't stretch to cover them, additional revenues such as a second or better paying job or longer hours need to be considered.

The same holds for Alaska. In the last few years of low oil revenues the State has cut back severely on many programs and now we are out of those options. The State still has certain minimal and critical operating expenses that cannot be eliminated without harming regional economies and industries and people who absolutely need them. Only the most radical conservatives are resistant to the inevitable need for a new revenue source. Governor Dunleavy deliberately ignores the revenue side of any budget balancing efforts.

Every state in the union except Alaska has either a statewide income or a statewide sales tax. Many have both and some have a statewide property tax as well. Even New Hampshire taxes dividend and interest income. All those other state's taxes are not inspired by a love for taxation, but by obvious necessity, and we are now back at that point as well. - More...
Thursday PM - April 11, 2019

jpg Opinion

Trump has not been ‘soft’ on Russia. He’s been tougher than Obama. By U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan - Now that the Mueller investigation is over, we can put to bed the persistent and erroneous allegations that President Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russians to get him elected. Likewise, we should also put to bed another persistent and pernicious narrative: that the president and his administration have been “soft” on Russia. - More...
Sunday PM - April 07, 2019

jpg Opinion

THE SWINDLES OF GOVERNOR CRUDE & HIS OIL-SOAKED HANDLERS; A CALL TO REVOLUTION By David G Hanger - First, in your thinking. Then, in fact. This is indeed “a time that tries men’s (and women’s) souls.” History will record the series of governors beginning with Sarah Palin and concluding with “Days of Misery” Dunleavy as the “Oil Governors,” in hindsight recognizing that for any and all practical purposes these people were owned by the oil industry. History will further record Governor Michael Dunleavy as the worst governor in a series of pathetic examples of the genre, and a name that will be vilified beyond all others in this state a century and more from now. - More...
Sunday PM - April 07, 2019

jpg Opinion

Herring Cove vs. Clam Cove; Similar but different, challenges remain By Mary L. Stephenson - Revillagigedo and Gravina Islands have access to the state highways: Tongass and Narrows. Both experienced miners and loggers stripping land while homesteaders quietly staked out claims for a better tomorrow. Gateway Borough and Planning Commission has oversight of land for residential and commercial use; 1,160 square miles of untapped resources, wilderness and wonderment to the next generation exploring Ketchikan by 2029. - More...
Sunday PM - April 07, 2019

jpg Opinion

RE: Southeast Community Meetings – Public Comment Overview By Byron Whitesides - Dear Representative Ortiz: Just got done reading your letter on Sitnews about your townhall meeting and how you perceived what the public response is by this testimony.  First, the public testimony is biased, as the special interests ALWAYS organize their groups and flood the meetings, second, many Alaskans are not able to be there to speak.  Many have to work or other obligations.  I have also been reading online about other townhalls around the state, and those attending posted comments and said the applause at these events went to speakers who opposed using the permanent fund!   - More...
Tuesday PM - April 02, 2019

jpg Opinion

Middle School Music Day Concert By Judith Green - Ketchikan and surrounding communities have a wealth of talented beautiful young people. The Middle School Music Day Concert Friday night March 29 @Kayhi was awesome. - More...
Tuesday PM - April 02, 2019

jpg Opinion

The Corrupt Bastard's Club is Alive and Well. By Ray Metcalf - Today BP is in a joint venture with a Chinese company. Together, they are producing 3 million barrels per day from Iraq's Rumaila field. The two companies share a payment of $4.2 million per day for their services. Today BP, ConocoPhillips, and Exxon are providing the same service for Alaska with one big difference. In Alaska they are being paid over $12 million per day to produce a little under one sixth that amount. Alaska pays its producers 17 times as much per barrel as the competitive bid process has clearly gotten our big three producers in other parts of the world. - More...
Saturday AM - March 30, 2019

jpg Opinion

Southeast Community Meetings – Public Comment Overview By Rep. Dan Ortiz - This past weekend, I had the opportunity to host three Community Meetings in Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan to hear input on the governor’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year. First and foremost, I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to attend, especially those who had the courage to speak. - More...
Saturday AM - March 30, 2019

jpg Opinion

Beware of those proposing a state income tax. By Wiley Brooks - Near one-half of federal income tax filers pay zero federal income taxes. So, if there’s a state income tax tied to the federal system, as there once was, near ½ the filers will pay zero state income taxes. - More...
Saturday AM - March 30, 2019

jpg Opinion

Feel-Good Politics Doesn't Pay the Bills By Rep. Josh Revak - Planning and readiness.

They are the most critical elements needed for success in any endeavor. Through six years in the U.S. military and two deployments to the Middle East, I had no choice but to accept that planning and readiness are, in fact, the greatest defenses one has when staring any adversity, or even death, in the face.- More...
Wednesday AM - March 27, 2019

jpg Opinion

"Ortiz Traveling Pre-determine Outcome Tour" By A.M. Johnson  - Let me be bold, I am willing to bet those who begged during the recent "Ortiz Traveling Pre-determine Outcome Tour" to be taxed (I suspect most of them being educators, union members or receive state benefits) are not now voluntarily donating money to the state in lieu of an income tax. - More...
Wednesday AM - March 27, 2019

jpg Opinion

Draft Dodger Trump (DDT) By Donald Moskowitz - President Trump continuously bashes John McCain about various McCain positions that Trump disagrees with, which is somewhat amazing since McCain has been dead for seven months. I believe DDT wants to be in the spotlight all the time and doesn't care if he receives negative criticism about his comments. - More...
Wednesday AM - March 27, 2019

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