Morning Headlamp – House Majority refuses to reduce budget goes straight to taxes.

Republicans in the House Minority claim they’ve been left out of this year’s budget negotiations process. House Minority Leader Charisse Millett, a Republican from Anchorage, said, “They’re not interested in what we have to say, and our contribution to the budget process,” Millett said. Despite falling from power in the recent election, Minority members have an important role to play in state budget negotiations, including votes to tap the Permanent Fund and the Constitutional Budget Reserve. The state Constitution requires three quarters of each house of the Legislature to vote to spend money from the reserve. That’s given the House Minority leverage in past years, since it became impossible to balance the budget without this money. For the past 35 years, the state has only spent money from Permanent fund earnings for Permanent Fund dividends. But if the Legislature wanted to, it could spend these earnings by only a simple majority vote.

Headlamp notes the House Majority’s hypocrisy in using a tactic they cried foul over last session when it was proposed by the previous Majority. Seaton and his Musk Ox Caucus wanted to retain their ability to increase the budget last year, and it’s the same theme this year. Blocking the Minority’s opportunity to reduce the budget may seem clever now, but Headlamp thinks Alaskans may have a different view as the House Majority moves to tax them to support their big government budget. 

Chugach Electric Association is drawing opposition to its preliminary plans for a 700-foot-wide, 300-foot-tall concrete dam on the Snow River, a salmon-spawning stream north of Seward that contributes water to the Kenai River. The Seward Chamber of Commerce supports the idea, in part because of the economic benefits that could flow from the large, renewable energy project – but many local residents are opposed to the project because of potential impacts on the world-renowned fishery. If a project of this size is built, it would provide 12.4 percent of Chugach’s generating capacity.

A fishing group set up to benefit Western Alaska villages announced on Thursday that it won’t open its fish processing plant in Platinum for the second year in a row. The salmon, herring and halibut plant was heavily subsidized every year since its opening in 2009, officials with Coastal Villages Seafood Fund said. The plant never became self-sustainable and losses to support local fishing amounted to $6 million to $7 million a year, about half the cost of the plant, according to Coastal Villages.

 

First Reads

New House minority Republicans vent, claim they’re sidelined in budget process

KTOO, Andrew Kitchenman, March 2, 2017

Utility wants to build new dams in sportfish-rich Kenai River watershed

Alaska Dispatch News, Alex DeMarban, March 3, 2017

Western Alaska fish plant won’t open again this year

Alaska Dispatch News, Lisa Demer, March 3, 2017