Alaska News Nightly: January 9, 2008

As the state’s tax coffers fill up, Alaska’s education system is found wanting by national analysts. Plus, southcentral Old Believers mourn their losses from Saturday’s plane crash in Kodiak while environmentalists work to stave off polar bear losses in years to come. Those stories and more on tonight’s Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

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State tax revenues expected to rise in 2008
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
The state’s Tax Division is expecting more money than ever before. The Revenue Department today released its semi-annual revenue sources book — with a forecast of oil prices and production. This year, the Department anticipates an income of $6.6 billion.

National education report finds Alaska below average
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Alaska is a little below average in a national report released today by Education Week magazine focusing on six key categories affecting educational quality and achievement. Alaska’s highest score is in the area of standards, assessments and accountability and the lowest is in school financing, achievement and professional development.

Environmental groups prepare for legal action over polar bear protection
Joel Southern, APRN – Washington, DC
Conservation groups pushing to get polar bears on the Endangered Species List today positioned themselves for more litigation if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service drags out the process for issuing a decision.

Kachemak Old Believers mourn their loss
Mike Mason, KBBI – Homer
Russian Old Believers on the Kenai peninsula are in mourning for the five members of their community killed in Saturday’s plane crash on Kodiak island.

Legislation filed to establish separate ferry authority
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
Three coastal lawmakers want an independent board of directors to run the state ferry system. They’ve filed legislation creating an Alaska Marine Highway Authority, separate from the state Department of Transportation which now manages the system.

Bellair owner admits fraud
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The owner of an aviation company that serves some interior villages has pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud related to the by-pass mail program. Michael Spisak, the owner of Kenai-based Bellair admitted to lying on forms filed electronically with the federal government in order to gain a greater share of mail delivery.

Rural Challenges series, part 2: Hoonah
Weld Royal, KTOO – Juneau
Despite commercial fishing and a flourishing summer tourist economy, Hoonah lacks jobs and adequate housing. Young people grow up and head elsewhere to find opportunity. The town used to be the home of Whitestone Logging. During its heyday the camp employed hundreds. Now it’s closed, but part of it has been resurrected by Wes and Sue Tyler. They hope their 4-year-old business will bring their sons back home to Hoonah.