Morning Headlamp — What we have here is a failure to communicate…does anyone know the real details about Alaska’s budget?

The party heats up in Juneau. According to reports, the Alaska House’s budget process Tuesday threatened to dissolve into delay and dysfunction rivaling that of U.S. Congress, complete with its own filibuster from a frustrated fiscal hawk, North Pole Republican Rep. Tammie Wilson. Wilson started Tuesday’s House Finance Committee meeting with a massive number of amendments — 243 — to the $5 billion unrestricted general fund spending plan from the chamber’s largely Democratic majority coalition. By lunch, one of the committee’s co-chairs, Homer Republican Rep. Paul Seaton, had found a way to dispense with half of Wilson’s amendments, lumping similar proposals into two separate packages — allowing the committee to vote them down en masse.

It’s painful,” said Fairbanks Republican Rep. Steve Thompson, who went for a walk during part of Wilson’s speech. “But it’s part of the process.” “I literally can’t think of a better place to be. No regrets,” said Anchorage Independent Rep. Jason Grenn, a freshman who caucuses with the Majority. “It is a heck of a way to learn about the state and the crisis we’re going through.” “I literally went line by line by line throughout the entire budget,” Wilson said in an interview in her office, where she’s affixed a “243” poster on her door surrounded by balloons.

Pen pals. Alaska Gov. Bill Walker in early February wrote to President Trump with his wish list for the state’s pipeline and liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, asking for environmental regulatory exemptions for the project as well as federal loan guarantees. The governor said the federal government can help the Alaska LNG project with “relatively minor amendments to an existing federal loan guarantee previously passed for an Alaskan gas pipeline project, concessionary financing and/or guarantees (such as a first-loss investment) of up to 25% of the total investment for each project, and some changes to regulations that would provide Alaska with greater oversight of the existing and well-established pipeline corridor.”

Headlamp would not call an increase from $18B to $40B loan guarantee a minor amendment; nor would we support the request that any gas pipeline project require the State as a participant.

Potential budget cuts aimed at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could pull millions of dollars for drinking water and wastewater initiatives from Alaska, slowing the progress of potable water in villages, and limiting efforts to adjust to climate changes. The EPA’s fiscal year 2017 budget is $8.6 billion, supporting roughly 15,000 employees. But only a small portion of that funding goes to staff — much of it goes directly to states, tribes and territories through the clean water and drinking water state revolving loan funds, and a variety of grants. In Alaska, that amounted to just more than $78 million in fiscal year 2016.

Opposition from an Inupiaq village near the U.S. petroleum reserve in Alaska has stopped ConocoPhillips from drilling a nearby exploration well, a move that raises doubts about future exploration efforts at the potential oil play on the North Slope. ConocoPhillips’ decision to delay plans to drill the Putu 1 exploration well  was a factor in a decision by the state on Feb. 17 to increase pressure on the company to make sure exploration occurs as soon as possible. The area is on leased state land.

Home is where the recession isn’t. Home foreclosures are often the hallmark of a down economy, but that doesn’t appear to be the case in Alaska, where last year, in the midst of recession, the number of statewide home foreclosures actually fell. Foreclosures statewide and in specific markets are also at or close to 10-year lows, according to data released Tuesday by the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation.

 

First Reads

A filibuster and a blizzard of amendments start to weigh down Alaska Legislature’s budget work
Alaska Dispatch News, Nathaniel Herz, March 7, 2017

Here’s what Alaska stands to lose with major cuts to the EPA budget
Alaska Dispatch News, Erica Martinson, March 7, 2017

Oil exec: Trump should keep US in Paris climate pact
The Hill, Timothy Cama, March 7, 2017

Alaskans, protect dividend and pay taxes
Alaska Dispatch News, John Havelock, March 7, 2017

Alaska Governor Sends Trump A Pipeline/LNG Wish List
Natural Gas Intelligence, Joe Fisher, March 7, 2017

State dials up pressure on ConocoPhillips after it delays controversial exploration project
Alaska Dispatch News, Alex DeMarban, March 7, 2017

Alaska home foreclosure count shows little sign of recession’s effects
Alaska Dispatch News, Jeannette Lee Falsey, March 7, 2017

Hilcorp given May 1 deadline to repair leaking pipeline
Peninsula Clarion, Ben Boettger, March 7, 2017