Business

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.

Borough sees increase in oil property values

The values of some oil and gas properties in the Kenai Peninsula Borough jumped in the most recent state assessment, producing about $1.1 million more for the borough in property taxes.

Much of that increase comes from the Nikiski area, where the tax values for the year increased by approximately $559,991, according to the borough’s fiscal year 2017 budget.

The increase allowed for a mill rate decrease for residents of Nikiski from 2.90 to 2.80 for the next year. The borough assembly approved the new mill rate at its June 7 meeting.

Group says fracking will harm Cook Inlet beluga whales

ANCHORAGE — A national environmental group is asking federal fisheries officials to block a drilling company’s plans for offshore hydraulic fracturing in Alaska’s Cook Inlet.

The Center for Biological Diversity says fracking by BlueCrest Energy will threaten endangered beluga whales.

The group says no hydraulic fracturing by the Fort Worth, Texas-based company should be allowed unless there’s additional environmental review.

Hydraulic fracturing is the extraction of oil and gas from rock through injection of high-pressure mixtures of water, sand and chemicals.

Bike Bucks? Ride for food to Homer Farmers Market

The Homer Farmers Market is in the perfect location.

Very few markets have the good fortune of a permanent location so that tents and infrastructure can stay up all summer.

That means that instead of just a pop-up tent village, our Market booths are more permanent, hand built, and full of personality.

I’ll just say it: we have a cute Farmers Market.

Permanent Fund exec: Dividend bill too optimistic

FAIRBANKS (AP) — The bill to restructure the Alaska Permanent Fund to help pay for government could be too optimistic about the market, the head of the corporation that manages the fund told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner editorial board Tuesday.

Angela Rodell, the CEO of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp., said an annual draw of 5.25 percent of the market value of the fund could be tough to meet every year. That money would come from the fund’s earnings reserve account, not the fund’s principal.

House has a moment of silence for Orland victims

JUNEAU (AP) — The Alaska House of Representatives stood for a moment of silence Monday to honor the shooting victims of the deadly attack at the gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Rep. Matt Claman asked his colleagues to stand in unity for those injured and killed and their families.

The Anchorage Democrat says, “It’s a tremendous loss.”

Lawmakers are meeting in special session to address budget shortfalls because of the low price of oil.

VA ends contractor’s duty of making appointments

JUNEAU (AP) — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is returning to using its own employees to handle appointments for Alaska veterans who need medical services outside the VA system.

State lawmakers announced Monday that TriWest Healthcare Alliance will no longer make appointments for veterans. The company will still be responsible for billing and maintaining relationships with medical professionals, The Alaska Public Radio Network reported.

Report examines five-year outlook for peninsula economy

The Kenai Peninsula’s relatively diverse economy has some room to grow in the next few years, accommodating for lower oil prices and production as well as an aging population.

The most recent Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, compiled by the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District, reviews some demographic and employment statistics while proposing broad goals for the next five years. The plan will be updated every year but provides a broad framework for the future of the economy, said Rick Roeske, the KPEDD’s executive director.

Producers and co-producers: a sympiotic relationship

Even on a rainy day like last Saturday, the Homer Farmers Market is packed. It is filled with what are known as “co-producers.”

To understand what a co-producer is, we need to think about producers. They are the dedicated individuals who show up every week and stand in their booth (smiling or grumbling, depending on personality) chatting with Market patrons. They have been planning all week for this day, scheduling out harvest times and sequential plantings, noting quantities and quality of the different varieties of veggies they will be bringing.

'Keen Kow' invites diners to 'eat Thai food'

Ninilchik may be small in size, but not flavor. The most recent offering attracting hungry residents, visitors and Sterling Highway travelers is Keen Kow Thai Food.

No puzzle about the restaurant’s name. Translated, it means, “Eat Thai food.” That encouragement is underscored by the tantalizing aroma welcoming diners and hinting at chef Nina Oliver’s skill when it comes to combining herbs. Oliver and her husband, Rick, are owners of Keen Kow.

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?

More rats seen on Kodiak

KODIAK (AP) — A pest control technician in Kodiak says this year’s warm winter has caused a spike in the number of rats on the island.

BJ Johnson with American Pest Management said rat populations have surged throughout Kodiak Island this year following a third straight winter of warmer-than-normal temperatures.

“It is definitely a rat season,” Johnson told KMXT-FM. “We haven’t had a real cold winter in at least three years now, and hence that gives them plenty of comfortable climate to propagate, and that’s what they’re doing.”

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.

LEGISLATURE IN BRIEF

JUNEAU (AP) — The Alaska Senate has passed legislation aimed at helping stabilize an individual health insurance market that’s been plagued by rising rates and, starting next year, will be down to one insurer.

Under the bill, claims for high-cost conditions would be ceded to a high-risk pool funded by a premium tax paid to the state by insurance companies. The bill anticipates $55 million being available.

The director of Alaska’s Division of Insurance, Lori Wing-Heier, said that money currently goes to the state’s general fund.

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