Morning Headlamp — Alaska legislature agrees on an operating budget

The legislature compromised on Alaska’s operating budget after House and Senate negotiators reached a deal late Monday. Legislative leaders wanted to avoid a repeat of last year, when a budget fight spilled into June and thousands of state workers received notices warning of possible layoffs if a budget wasn’t approved by July 1. Senate Finance Committee co-chair Anna MacKinnon, said the operating budget represents a bipartisan effort and addresses “the need to cut, the need to invest and the need to compromise.” Headlamp hopes that Governor Walker will recognize a compromise when he sees one and honor the legislative work that went into it. A veto will only send the state backwards.

A new challenger steps to up to the plate. Alaska Dispatch News reported that Vince Beltrami, Alaska’s AFL – CIO president, has filed to run for state senate. Earlier this year Beltrami lost the support of several minority members of the legislature when he opted to co-chair Alaska’s Future, a group that’s lobbying the Legislature to use the earnings of the Permanent Fund to help cover the state’s $4 billion budget deficit and to cap the dividend. “This is my fourth election in six years and he’s put his people up against me every time. I guess he decided it was his turn to stand up and go to bat. So, game on,” Giessel said. 

Alaskan land, Alaska’s issue. Sen. Lisa Murkowski held a hearing for the Senate Resources Committee on federal management conflicts with local management on the Kenai Peninsula. “We’ve got some serious work in front of us,” Murkowski said. “I think we recognize that in the past 20 years or thereabouts, the management of our public forests, or lack of management, translates to a very real threat to the health and safety of communities not only in our state but really across our nation.” Mike Navarre, Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor, criticized federal overreach on local Alaskans’ attempts to responsibly manage their land on their own terms. He said when he originally put forward a plan to thin some of the trees on the Peninsula during the spruce bark beetle infestation, he received opposition from some of the environmental agencies in Washington, D.C.

In similar news, the deadline for comment on future outer continental shelf (OCS) drilling leases ends in 15 days. Sen. Murkowski criticized President Obama’s plan to curtail future Arctic drilling, citing “overwhelming support of Alaskans for the lease sales.

Alaska’s land management should be exactly that — Alaskans managing their own land. Federal overreach into local ecologic issues will undoubtedly miss the mark on policy. Headlamp applauds Sen. Murkowski for recognizing that Alaskans are the best arbiters of their ecologic and resource development issues.

Yesterday marked the 39th anniversary of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline’s completion! Headlamp hopes that similar oil and gas megaprojects can become pillars of sustainable resource development.


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First Reads

Alaska Legislature passes compromise state operating budget
Associated Press, Becky Bohrer, May 31, 2016

Legislature votes to dip into budget reserve to pass state budget
Alaska Public Radio News, Andrew Kitchenman, May 31, 2016

Top Alaska union official Beltrami to run against GOP state Sen. Cathy Giessel
Alaska Dispatch News, Nathaniel Herz, May 31, 2016

Murkowski holds meeting to discuss federal management
Peninsula Clarion, Elizabeth Earl, May 31, 2016

Young, Murkowski to do ‘double whammy’ on energy bill
Alaska Public Radio News, Liz Ruskin, May 27, 2016