Alaska Nightly News: April 14, 2010

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House Takes a Look at Senate’s Oil, Gas Plan
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
The House on Wednesday took its first serious first look at the Senate bill that would separate the state’s oil and gas taxes. Senate Finance Co-chair Bert Stedman (R-Sitka) recapped for the House Finance members how the current oil and gas tax structure developed over the years.  He said that – because of tax breaks and the progressive nature of the tax — the structure will lead to a potential risk to state revenue when possible gas producers begin to use a large-diameter gas line from the North Slope to Canada.  Stedman puts the possible loss somewhere between two and three Billion dollars a year – under current market prices.  In previous testimony, in other committees,   the Parnell administration has said the tax break is in place as an incentive. Stedman disagrees.

Begich Backs Extending Insurance for Military Families
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
The President may have signed a massive Democratic-sponsored health care bill into law last month, but Alaska Senator Mark Begich says Congress must also address the health care needs of military families.  The President may have signed a massive Democratic-sponsored health care bill into law last month, but Alaska Senator Mark Begich says Congress must also address the health care needs of military families.

He introduced a bill on Wednesday that would extend insurance benefits to children of military families up to age 26. Children of active-duty and retired military are currently covered by the Tri-Care insurance program until age 21, or 23 if they’re full-time students. But the health care bill signed into law last month lets adult children stay on their civilian parents’ insurance longer, until age 26 – and Begich says military families should have the same coverage.

He says the Tri-Care military health insurance plan was separated out of the bigger health care bill, and now military families want to know how the benefits can extend do them.

Alaska Lags Nation in Returning Census Forms
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Thursday is of course the tax filing deadline and Friday is the deadline to mail in your census forms. Currently Alaska is at the very bottom of the list for participation. Ruben Delvalle is with the U.S. Census. He says Alaska is currently at 57% participation compared to Wisconsin, highest in the nation at 77%.  Delvalle says geographic, weather and mail delivery challenges are some of the known factors that cause Alaskans to lag behind, trends were similar for the 2000 census.  But he encourages people to get the forms in and he also throws down a challenge.

Mat-Su Officials Pump Census Compliance
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Matanuska-Susitna Borough officials are urging borough residents to respond to the census questionnaire.  According to borough sources, the Mat Su population has grown 42 percent in the decade since the 2000 census. The Knik-Fairview area in particular has almost achieved one hundred percent growth in the past ten years.  Borough manager John Duffy is asking residents to fill out and return census forms they receive in the mail.

Man’s Body Found in Anchorage Baseball Park
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
A man’s body was discovered in an Anchorage ball park dugout on Tuesday, bringing to four the number of  bodies found on city streets this year.  The spate of outdoor deaths among the city’s street population has highlighted urgent efforts to find a solution to the homeless problem.

Southern Kenai Gets Extension on Snow Tire Removal
Aaron Selbig, KBBI – Homer
A day after a spring storm dumped several inches of fresh snow across Southcentral Alaska, Department of Public Safety Commissioner Joseph Masters has extended the studded-tire deadline for drivers on the southern Kenai Peninsula to May 1st.

Young Hints at AK-BC Electrical Intertie
Tony Gorman, KSTK – Wrangell
U.S. Representative Don Young, a Republican, was in Wrangell on Wednesday as part of his trip through Southeast Alaska this week. He touched on the possibility of an Alaska-British Columbia electrical intertie.

North Pole Musher Avid Advocate of Protecting Environment
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Renowned polar explorer Will Steger made the first documented un-supported sled dog trip to the North Pole in 1986.  He is the author of “Over the Top of the World,” and other books, and has become a passionate advocate for taking measures to deal with the warming climate.