Andrew Kitchenman, Alaska Public Media & KTOO - Juneau
It’s been more than two weeks since Representative Max Gruenberg died, and his legacy lives on in the Capital: The House Judiciary Committee room was named after him. One area where his legacy is contested is what will happen to the legislative records he left behind. Kayla Epstein, his widow, wants control of his records, but she’s been blocked. She hopes the documents help the bills Gruenberg was working on become law.Download Audio
Alaskans giving public testimony this week on the House’s budget proposal oppose cuts to many areas. The Republican-led majority released a budget this week that included 145 million dollars more in cuts than Governor Bill Walker’s budget. It would reduce spending on everything from public libraries to senior benefits. Download Audio
The top energy industry lobbyist in Alaska denounced Governor Bill Walker’s proposed oil and gas tax changes on Monday. Alaska Oil and Gas Association President Kara Moriarty told the House Resources Committee that companies can’t afford higher costs when oil prices are low.
The Legislature completed the first stage of its annual budget process today. House Finance Subcommittees recommended more than $120 million more in cuts on top of the 100 million that Governor Bill Walker proposed. Download audio
The House Finance University of Alaska Subcommittee recommends cutting $35 million from the university’s budget for the upcoming year. Combined with Governor Bill Walker’s proposed $15 million cut, the university would lose one in seven dollars in state funding. Download audio
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
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
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