Andrew Kitchenman, APRN & KTOO - Juneau

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More than five weeks into the legislative session, House Finance Subcommittees recommended the first cuts to the budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1st. They include nine point $8 million in cuts to education programs, as well as cutting all $2.7 million in state funding for public broadcasting. Download Audio
Gov. Bill Walker at a press conference in the Capitol, Oct. 23, 2015. He announced that he was dropping a proposed natural gas reserves tax from the special session agenda. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

State officials have put a number on how much they will trim from next year’s budget for marketing liquefied natural gas from the proposed pipeline: $7 million. That’s the cut Governor Bill Walker’s administration will make to its budget request. It reduces the number of companies marketing gas to customers in Asia from three to one.

There are currently three proposals aimed at helping to close the state’s budget shortfall using the Permanent Fund. Legislators are weighing which – if any – to support. Today they heard from their own nonpartisan budget expert on what makes each plan unique. Download Audio

As Alaska’s Legislature digs through Governor Bill Walker’s budget proposal, a prime focus is the overhaul Walker put forward for oil and gas taxes. By reducing tax credits and increasing minimum production taxes, Walker aims to shave $500 million off the state's massive budget shortfall. House members question whether Walker’s administration has done enough analysis of the oil and gas tax changes – as well as other tax increases Walker has proposed. Download Audio

Medicaid is one of the biggest drivers of Alaska’s state spending. At the same time, Alaska has the nation’s highest suicide rate, and a growing problem with opioid addiction. There is a new effort to address both issues. State leaders believe they can lower the long term growth in Medicaid costs – and make Alaskans healthier mentally and physically. Download Audio

Changes are coming to state plans for the liquefied natural gas pipeline. But Governor Bill Walker and executives with the state’s three pipeline partners aren’t quite ready to say what those changes are. Download Audio

Alaska Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Mark Myers announced Tuesday that he’s retiring. Myers wrote in an email to department staff members that he’s retiring for personal reasons. His resignation is effective March 1. Download Audio

Longtime Representative Max Gruenberg died Sunday in Juneau. The Anchorage Democrat was 72. Download Audio

The Legislative Council is seeking advice from an independent finance expert on what to do about the controversial lease on the Legislative Information Office in downtown Anchorage.

Anchorage Democratic Representative Les Gara wants to make sure that these cuts don’t fall too heavily on working-class and low-income people. Gara has instead proposed a bill that would apply a 6 percent tax on the owners of businesses that aren’t currently taxed by the state. These businesses are called S-corporations and their owners report the business income as personal income. Download Audio

Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Craig Stowers says the court system has taken steps to cut costs. In the annual State of the Judiciary address to a joint session of the legislatureon Wednesday, he said the courts plan on more cuts. Download Audio

The Senate’s already large majority grew even bigger today. Senator Donny Olson joined the majority caucus. The move by the Golovin Democrat means that sixteen of the twenty senators are in the majority. Olson says he’s honored to join the majority and will lend a strong voice for rural Alaskans. Download Audio

Alaska’s major parties will pick their candidates on different days. The Republicans will choose theirs on March 1st, also known as Super Tuesday. That’s because it’s the day that the largest number of delegates will be picked this year. Download Audio

Lawmakers have talked about focusing on the state budget since their session began three weeks ago. But on Monday, they took action to make it official. The House passed a resolution that limits committees to working on bills that raise or spend state revenue. This new rule will remain in place until the House passes a budget. Download Audio

Alaskans don’t want to see large cuts to their annual Permanent Fund dividends. At least, that was the message most people delivered Thursday night about Gov. Bill Walker’s plan for the fund. Download Audio

Alaskans get their first chance today to tell legislators what they think of the centerpiece of Gov. Bill Walker’s fiscal plan for the state.

Gov. Bill Walker has proposed using the Permanent Fund to pay for much of the state’s annual budget. But Walker isn’t alone in eyeing the $50 billion account. Lawmakers have introduced two other bills to pay for part of the budget using the fund. Download Audio

An association of retired state workers has filed a lawsuit saying state cuts to dental benefits violate the Alaska constitution. The Retired Public Employees of Alaska says changes in 2014 to optional dental, vision, audio and long-term-care insurance must be reversed. On Friday, the association filed the lawsuit against Department of Administration Commissioner Sheldon Fisher in Superior Court in Anchorage. Download Audio

Thirty-three Alaskans died from heroin overdoses last year, a dramatic increase from just five years ago, when only four people died. Another 54 Alaskans died of prescription pain-reliever overdoses in 2015. Some of those deaths may have been prevented through the use of an opioid antidote, which can rapidly reverse overdoses. There is a legislative effort to make it easier for overdose victims to get the life-saving drug Naloxone. Some doctors feel comfortable prescribing Naloxone. Others are wary of facing lawsuits related to drug overdoses.Download Audio

Last year, Dean Williams found many problems with the state Department of Corrections that contributed to the deaths of dozens in Alaska’s prisons and jails. Now he will be in position to do something about it. Gov. Bill Walker on Thursday nominated Williams to be corrections commissioner. Download Audio