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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
May 31, 2016

Front Page Feature Photo By SUSAN HOYT

Garden Deer
The shadows cast from the Maple tree in the photographer's garden on this Sitka Black-tailed Deer, gives the deer the appearance of a painting.
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Budget Compromise Prevents Threat of Government Shutdown By MARY KAUFFMAN - The Alaska Legislature passed fully funded budgets today for the next fiscal year that removes the threat of the first ever government shutdown in Alaska. The operating and capital budgets were passed after weeks of bipartisan negotiations between the Minority and Majority Caucuses in both the Alaska House of Representatives and Senate.

Today, the Alaska State Legislature passed HB 256, the Alaska statewide operating budget; HB 257, the mental health operating budget; and SB 138, the capital budget. After a conference committee appointed to address discrepancies in the House and Senate versions of the operating budget bills closed negotiations late last night, the bodies passed a fully funded budget this afternoon, achieving $418 million in budget reductions for FY 2017. In addition to the $777 million in reductions achieved in last year’s operating budget, the 29th Alaska State Legislature has reduced the budget by $1.2 billion over two years.

The Conference Committee reports for House Bills 256 & 257, both of which were held over from the 2nd session of the 29th Alaska Legislature, passed the House today on a vote of 34-5 and 38-1 respectively. The FY17 deficit was funded using the Constitutional Budget Reserve. The vote to access the CBR was 35-4.

The Conference Committee report for the Operating Budget totals $4.26 billion in unrestricted general funds. The day-to-day portion of the budget is roughly $1.89 billion, a 7.1 percent reduction from FY16’s operations and a 17 percent reduction from FY15.

“We’ve heard from our constituents all year that they want a budget under $4.5 billion – this budget comes in significantly under that number. In fact, we are under $4.4 billion for the Operating and Capital Budgets combined,” Finance Co-chair Mark Neuman, R-Su-Valley, said. “There are other actions the House has taken to slow the growth of the budget and shrink the fiscal gap. Medicaid reform and the Criminal Justice legislation are expected to generate significant savings as they are fully implemented.

The Conference Committee also approved a fiscal note for $430 million to partially pay the $650 million in oil and gas tax credits already owed using FY16 money. “It is critical that the state of Alaska honor its obligations and pay its debts. It just makes sense to pay FY16 bills with FY16 money. The other option is to pass today’s obligations on to future Alaskans, and we don’t want to see that happen.” Neuman said.

“We’re keeping Alaskans employed with this budget and that’s what matters the most,” Finance Co-chair Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks, said. “Would we have liked to see a smaller budget in these challenging fiscal times? Yes. House Bill 256 is a true compromise that will ensure public services that Alaskans depend on will continue.”

The Operating and Mental Health Budgets had more than 120 committee and subcommittee hearings, and hours of public testimony before final passage today.

“It is important for the people of Alaska to know the size and scope of government has been cut,” said Sen. Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks), co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee. “As we enter into discussions about revenue, we have fulfilled our promise to first reduce state government.”

In response to the state’s $4 billion deficit, the Senate Majority stated in a news release that this budget includes responsible cuts in line with the Senate Majority’s priorities, through major government reforms in the Medicaid system and corrections department, both of which received broad, bipartisan support by both legislative bodies and the administration.

“The reforms we are making now will protect our budget reserves into the hundreds of millions of dollars,” Sen. Kelly added.

As a part of the budget negotiation process the Senate Majority stated the conference committee reviewed each department and agency, focusing on maximum efficiency of state services. Major reform within the Medicaid system will save the state $500 million over eight years; criminal justice reform will save the state $380 million over the next decade; and power cost equalization fund restructuring and community assistance program fund restructuring will save the state more than $200 million over the next six years.

The capital budget includes $130 million in unrestricted and designated general funds, leveraging $1.3 billion in federal match funding and providing Alaska’s communities with state assistance for roads, harbors, energy and deferred maintenance according to the Senate Majority.

“This budget addresses the need to cut, the need to invest and the need to compromise,” said Sen. Anna MacKinnon (R-Eagle River), co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee. “It was a bicameral, bipartisan effort to ensure stability, and to avoid pink slips for state employees.”

"I voted for the budget deal because I will not be a part of playing on the fear and uncertainty of Alaskans by threatening a government shutdown. These budgets are not perfect but they represent a willingness by our Coalition members to seek bipartisan solutions to protect Alaska's economy," said House Finance Committee member Representative David Guttenberg (D-Fairbanks). "I am especially proud we were able to restore the millions of dollars the Republican Majorities cut from the University of Alaska budget. We need a vibrant University so ideas and innovation can be applied to our great state. This is vital in creating a strong diversified economy."

As part of the negotiated budget deal the Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition stated in a news release, all previously cut funding for early learning programs like Pre-K, Parents as Teachers, and Best Beginnings was restored. The budget deal also restores the promised $50 increase to the Base Student Allocation for Alaska’s public school, which was cut at the last-minute by the Republicans in the budget Conference Committee. The compromise budget also restores the budget for the University of Alaska to the level originally proposed by Governor Walker.

“We stood strong for public education and were ultimately able to prevent short-sighted and dangerous cuts that would jeopardize the future of our children,” said House Finance Committee member Representative Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks). “It took some time and effort, but we ultimately prevailed and convinced a majority of lawmakers that it’s irresponsible to try and balance the budget by jeopardizing the educational opportunities of Alaskans.” - More...
Tuesday PM - May 31, 2016

Alaska: Alaska Legislature Passes Foster Youth System Reform and Protection Bill - Today, the Alaska Legislature passed House Bill 27 to make significant reforms to help improve the lives of foster youth in Alaska. The bill, sponsored by Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage), includes provisions to get youth into stable, permanent, loving homes and out of foster care, where youth often bounce between a dozen or more homes.

Governor Bill Walker also thanked the Alaska Legislature today for passing HB 200 and HB 27, which reduce barriers for adoption and boost state efforts to find permanent, stable homes for children living in foster care. The two bills passed the Alaska Senate today by votes of 18-2 and 20-0 respectively, and will now be sent to the Governor’s office for his signature.

“I added these two bills to the special session call because protecting Alaska’s children is absolutely critical,” said Governor Walker. “I thank members of the Alaska Legislature for the work they have done in recent years to stand up for our children, and am pleased we were able to get these two pieces of legislation across the finish line this year.”

Sponsored by Governor Walker, HB 200 streamlines legal proceedings involving children in Alaska’s foster care system. This “one judge, one family” model will allow for more timely judicial decisions, helping foster children quickly return home or exit foster care through guardianship or adoption. Additionally, HB 200 will: - More...
Tuesday PM - May 31, 2016


Southeast Alaska: Southeast Alaska 2020 Economic Plan Released - From arts to oysters, tourists to hydropower, and ferries to wood products, the new Southeast Alaska 2020 Economic Plan released this week by Southeast Conference has something for everyone.

outheast Alaska 2020 Economic Plan Released

The Economic Plan is the result of a year-long collaborative process in which Southeast Conference reported they engaged more than 400 regional leaders from small businesses, municipalities, state government, university, Alaska Native organizations, and nonprofits.

The membership of Southeast Conference came up with 47 regionally based economic initiatives that will bring jobs and commerce to Southeast Alaska. Eight initiatives with the most momentum and local champions were prioritized as part of this process - including Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) support, energy promotion, maritime workforce creation, seafood product development, mariculture, visitor industry marketing, and securing an adequate timber supply.

These priority objectives will dictate the organizational focus of Southeast Conference itself moving forward, but Southeast Conference president Garry White stresses that the economic plan is for all Southeast Alaska organizations to use: “This is a really useful tool. If you have a housing project, a harbor improvement, or are building a tribal enterprise business, you can use the regional economic plan as a supporting document to show how your project fits into the greater Southeast Alaska economic planning process. Especially if you are going after federal funding, this document will help you secure funding for your projects.”

The plan, developed by Rain Coast Data on behalf of Southeast Conference, is much more than a list of economic initiatives. It includes an in-depth analysis of the region’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats – for the region as a whole, as well as for specific economic sectors.

The plan contains the results of an economic resiliency mapping exercise to understand how the Southeast region is responding to the looming state fiscal crisis. It presents the results of the regional business climate survey. It contains an economic summary of the region. Finally, it includes a blueprint of who will enact the elements of the plan, along with steps, timelines, costs, and evaluation measures. - More..
Tuesday PM - May 31, 2016


Columns - Commentary

jpg Dave Kiffer

DAVE KIFFER: Which Way to the Tsunami? - It was a bright sunny day in Our Fair Salmon City.

Yes, yes, I realize that is about as realistic as any story that begins “once upon a time,” but this was no fairy tale. It was actually a sunny day and warm enough for the locals to actually consider baring forearms.

Of course, baring foreams brings its own challenges. Folks in Ketchikan either get bit much, like my wife Charlotte, or they don’t get bit much, like me. I try to explain to her that it because the local bugs prefer sweeter flesh than mine, but the real truth is that, as a Ketchikan kid my blood alcohol level is a genetic 1.5 and mosquitos who take in that much anti-freeze don’t last long enough to breed the next generation.

At any rate, I digress.

Back to our sunny day. Everyone was enjoying the blast of pre-summer, except for a couple of folks from way down south who were still rapped up in parkas because 69 degrees and sunny was a winter day for them.

Oh, yeah, and one woman from Wisconsin, who was concerned about the brightness of the Alaska sun.

“Sure is bright around here,” she said offhandledy.


I had never heard this before. Cold, yes. Rainy, yes. But bright is not a word that one ever hears to describe our apparently over-radiant First City.

I briefly thought that she was referring to our community intellectual capacity. It’s a little known fact that the town motto is “Think Big or Don’t Think At All.” But no, she was talking about the weather. - More...
Tuesday PM - May 31, 2016

jpg Editorial Cartoon: Zika Defense

Editorial Cartoon: Zika Defense
By Nate Beeler ©2016, The Columbus Dispatch
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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letter Part 10: “OIL COMPANY” WALKER, “OIL CAN” ORTIZ AND OIL COMPANY SOCIALISM By David G Hanger - Before we go into detail about the northland rapture known as “the Beginning,” let’s take a moment to study the near-term financial consequences for folks living in the Ketchikan area. Duly note that much of the damage intended to be done has already been done, and it is impossible to reverse what has already transpired. The financial duress thereby created at the state level has already led the intransigent group sponsoring the “Coghill Abomination,” the true rulers (gangsters) of the State of Alaska, to avoid any debate or compromise on the subject by financing the state budget using $5.5 billion from the earnings reserve account of the Permanent Fund. That is most of the cash in the earnings reserve fund, and that leaves the Permanent Fund in aggregate with an estimated value of $46 billion. - More...
Monday PM - May 23, 2016

letter The Harbor Poo-patrol By Nancy Elizabeth York - It's only human nature to resort to nasty name calling of our politically appointed city officials when our personal lives are encroached on by those enforcing more rules and regulations on us. That said, I shall refrain from engaging in or joining in on the frey. However, I will donate my two cents worth regarding the proposed Poo-patrol. - More...
Monday PM - May 23, 2016

letter Why I Voted Against SB91 By Rep. Dan Ortiz - Wouldn’t Alaskans experience violence if a gunman shot into their home? SB 91, a crime reform bill that ignores victims’ rights, says shooting into a home is ‘non-violent.’ - More...
Friday AM - May 20, 2016

letter Alaskans have no meaningful oil & gas rights By Daniel Donkel - I wish all Alaskans better understood the oil business, but it is clear Alaskans do not have any meaningful oil and gas rights like other oil and gas states in the nation do. - More...
Friday AM - May 20, 2016

letter Part 9: “OIL COMPANY” WALKER, “OIL CAN” ORTIZ, AND OIL COMPANY SOCIALISM By David G Hanger - HB247, the much-heralded clawback of these insane oil tax credits, was passed out of the State House and referred to the State Senate where its fate is dubious at best. Hailed by our elected officials as the means by which a billion dollars will be saved between now and 2020, if passed it will save at best around $200 million, and is otherwise a gutted piece of junk. - More...
Friday AM - May 20, 2016

letter Political legacy By A. M. Johnson - A bit of political Presidential history reflected as the current President establishes his legacy. - More...
Friday AM - May 20, 2016

letter Addendum RE: Poo Journal Wanted! By Douglas J. Thompson - It was so obvious that in my addressing Marie Zellerman's letter I skipped it but in retrospect I think the issue should be highlighted. That is the "charge" by the harbormaster that her boat didn't qualify because it "did not have the original helm station as designed by the original architect" or words to that effect. I was told almost the same thing in that my engine had to be the original engine as designed by the original architect. - More...
Friday AM - May 20, 2016

letter RE: Poo Journal Wanted! By Douglas J. Thompson - In regard to Marie Zellmer's letter in Tuesday's Sitnews: Sad to say but it is very predictable what will happen on Thursday at the Council Meeting. No matter if she has nine or nine hundred people there. She will be given her sixty seconds to voice her concern and then be gavelled down. While she is speaking the Ayatollah Amylon (sitting on the elected dais although he is an employee and not elected) will be shuffling papers and whispering back and forth with his acolytes in total disrespect. Then the useless harbormaster (inflated to Port Directer) will stand up and mumble something about it is needed and necessary without any rational justification. The sycophantic seven agree and nothing is changed. - More...
Friday AM - May 20, 2016

By David G Hanger - For the first quarter of 2016 ConocoPhillips recently announced a loss of $1.5 billion on its worldwide operations. While it is somewhat reasonable to assume the remaining three quarters of 2016 will be better, estimates about oil prices throughout the remainder of this year still run from a low of $20 to a high of about $80. So it remains possible that overall ConocoPhillips will lose even more on its worldwide operations by the end of this year. - More...
Tuesday AM - May 17, 2016

letter Poo Journal Wanted! By Marie Zellmer - Things have gone too far down at the docks. New Ketchikan City ordinances are about to be enacted and enforced, and no one knows about them or what they really mean to people who have chosen to live on the water. Don't get me wrong, many of the harbormasters I have worked next to, gone to school with, and built sets for plays with, and I have considered them friends, but when they go to work my home is there. The harbormasters have convinced the council to enact rules such as... anyone who stays on their vessel for 15 days is a live-aboard and must have a coast guard approves toilet installed with a storage tank, and keep daily logs as to how much it is being used and how often it is being pumped out at one of the only three pump stations on the island. This will also affect the fishing industry if the wording is followed. - More...
Tuesday AM - May 17, 2016

letter Our taxes for Health and Fitness By Joe Ashcraft - After a really arduous work day, my daughter convinced me to take her to the Fawn Mountain track for a few laps. This has been an almost nightly affair over the past few summers. And as I travel Southeast and the rest of Alaska on business, when asked about Ketchikan my response has included the track, the pool and the rec center as additions that make Ketchikan a really livable town. - More...
Tuesday AM - May 17, 2016

letter Drive Careful By Robert Jahnke - In the Ketchikan and outlaying areas we have now entered the green up phase of the year when the road side ditches and open areas are greening up drawing deer into areas dangerous to them and drivers alike. - More...
Tuesday AM - May 17, 2016

letter RE: Incarceration Conditions By Bonnie J Abbott - You are absolutely, one hundred percent CORRECT! Thank You for caring and speaking out on this horrible disease. Maybe more citizens will step up and voice their opinion on every last word in your awesome letter!!!! - More...
Tuesday AM - May 17, 2016

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Ketchikan, Alaska

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