James Brooks

Ballot Measure 1 would allow residents to register to vote when they apply for PFD

Ballot Measure 1
would allow residents
to register to vote when they apply for PFD

 

Ballot Measure 1 is the sole voter intiative on this fall’s general-election ballot. If approved by voters Nov. 8, Ballot Measure 1 would allow Alaskans to register to vote when they apply for their PFD each year. Formally, the measure allows the Alaska Division of Elections and the Permanent Fund Dividend Division to share information.

Cheaper loans for students idea behind measure 2

State Sen. Anna MacKinnon of Eagle River has tried for more than four years to make student loans cheaper. That effort will now be decided by voters on Tuesday.

If enacted, Ballot Measure 2 would amend Alaska’s Constitution so the state could borrow money on behalf of the Alaska Student Loan Corporation.

Alaska has a better credit rating than the corporation, and at present scores, according to figures provided to the Alaska Legislature earlier this year, that strategy could lower the interest on student loans by 0.97 percent.

Legislature starts fifth special session with no clear path forward

The 29th Alaska Legislature on Monday began its fifth special session since the gavel first sounded in January 2015, but lawmakers appear uncertain on their path forward and unsure even what the next few days will bring.

Gov. Bill Walker called the special session in an attempt to balance the state’s multibillion-dollar deficit. On the agenda is a measure passed by the Senate during the fourth special session to use some of the earnings of the Alaska Permanent Fund for state services. The measure died in the House Finance Committee without reaching a vote of the full House.

Legislature adjourns; Walker calls fifth special session

It’s over, but not done.

At 11:46 a.m. Sunday, the Alaska Senate adjourned the fourth special session of the 29th Alaska Legislature.

Forty minutes later, Gov. Bill Walker issued a proclamation stating that the fifth special session will begin on July 11. On its agenda will be three items: Using the earnings of the Alaska Permanent Fund to pay for government operations, reforms to the state’s system of oil and gas drilling subsidies, and a suite of tax increases.

Answers to your questions about the Permanent Fund bill

The Alaska Legislature is moving quickly to address a bill that would divert a portion of the Alaska Permanent Fund to pay for the state’s annual expenses, but judging by the emails and calls reaching legislative offices this week, Alaskans still have a lot of questions.

Here’s some answers to some of the most common questions we’ve heard in the Bill Ray Center this week about Senate Bill 128:

 

Why do we need this bill?

Senate votes to spend permanent fund earnings on state operations

The Alaska Senate voted late Monday to spend almost $1.8 billion per year from the Alaska Permanent Fund earnings reserve on the operations of state government.

If approved by the House, the action would erase about half of Alaska’s multibillion-dollar deficit but roughly halve the annual Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend.

Senate Bill 128, created by Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, is a key element in Gov. Bill Walker’s comprehensive plan to erase Alaska’s state deficit through spending cuts and new revenue.

Lawmakers keep oil tax loophole

The Alaska Legislature has approved a cut to oil and gas drilling subsidies that promises millions in savings but fails to close a loophole that led to an explosion in the amount the state owes oil companies.

House Bill 247 preserves a “net operating loss” tax credit intended for smaller oil producers who are developing a new oil field and losing money in the process. At low oil prices, however, the credit can be used by the North Slope giants that produce the bulk of Alaska’s oil, reducing their production tax rate to zero.

Seaton instrumental in bill that reduces oil tax credits

JUNEAU — After a month of debate, the Alaska House of Representatives has approved legislation that cuts the annual state subsidy for the oil and gas industry.

In a 25-12 vote, the House approved a modified version of House Bill 247, proposed by a pair of Republicans: Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, and Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer. With an amendment, the pair tossed out a version proposed by the House Rules Committee and substituted their own.

Board advances in-store pot use

JUNEAU — The Alaska Marijuana Control Board has voted unanimously to ask the public to comment on draft regulations allowing recreational marijuana users to enjoy pot products inside retail stores.

The regulations are the first of their kind in the United States and are a rough equivalent to the nation’s first legal pot cafes.

Once formalized, public comment will open in the coming weeks. After the public comment period expires, the board will consider the regulations again before approving or disavowing them for good.

Anchorage legislator’s plan could halve state’s deficit in about a year

JUNEAU — For 13 months, Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, has been working on a plan to use Permanent Fund earnings to partially balance Alaska’s state budget.

On Tuesday, she finally unveiled the proposal, which could halve the state’s nearly $4 billion deficit in a single year.

“With my plan, you’ll bring in approximately $2 billion, and that will put you on a glide path (to balancing the budget),” she told members of the Senate State Affairs Committee.

Slow flow, not low flow, is pipeline’s issue

JUNEAU — The trans-Alaska Pipeline System is still 100 percent full.

The speed of oil flow, not the amount of oil in the 39-year-old pipeline, is the issue creating engineering challenges for Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, engineer Rob Annett told legislators and members of the public during a Tuesday “Lunch and Learn” presentation at the Alaska Capitol.

Alyeska operates the 800-mile trans-Alaska Pipeline System on behalf of the major North Slope oil producers, which own shares of Alyeska.

Captain: Ferry fleet should shrink

JUNEAU — The head of the Alaska Marine Highway System gave the clearest statement yet that the ferry system will soon sell two of its 11 ships.

Speaking to the Alaska House Transportation Committee, Captain Michael Neussl, head of Marine Highway, said it makes little sense for the ferry system to own 11 ships when it only has the funding for nine.

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