Andrew Kitchenman, Alaska Public Media & KTOO - Juneau

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House Speaker questions administration’s analysis of oil, gas tax changes

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

State leaders look to fix Alaskan health issues

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

Gov. Walker says changes are coming for LNG project

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

Myers announces retirement, third Walker cabinet change in three weeks

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

Legislative veteran Max Gruenberg dies in Juneau

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

Legislative Council seeks advice on downtown Anchorage office

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.

Gara proposes tax on S-corporations

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

AK court system planning more budget cuts

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

Sen. Olson joins majority caucus

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

Presidential race heads to Alaska in March

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

House passes resolution to focus on budget

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

Public testimony: Keep state hands off of dividends

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

Senate takes public testimony on Walker’s Permanent Fund bill

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.

Three pitches for closing state budget deficit with the Permanent Fund

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

Retired workers file dental benefits suit

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

State legislature considers easing use of anti-opioid drug.

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

Corrections nominee aims to improve safety for intoxicated people who are detained

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

New Medicaid reform committee strives for savings

As lawmakers look to trim the state’s budget shortfall, their attention is focusing on one of the biggest areas of the budget: Medicaid. Download Audio

Plans announced for new state Public Integrity Unit

Alaska Attorney General Craig Richards announced a plan for a new Public Integrity Unit aimed at improving trust in government. Download Audio

Gov. Walker on budget: ‘It’s time to fix the hole in the boat’

Governor Bill Walker called for the entire legislature to work together with him to close the state’s budget shortfall. The annual State of the State address last night reflected the state’s grave budget situation. Download Audio