Budget clears the House. The Alaska House on Monday passed a budget for the state’s next fiscal year, approving the $4.25 billion unrestricted general fund spending plan in a 22-17 vote. The split was along caucus lines, with all the members of the predominantly Democratic Majority coalition in favor, and the Republican minority opposed. Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake, was excused. The vote came after a week of debate, with more than 100 amendments proposed mostly by Republican Minority members. The budget, including the payout for Permanent Fund dividends, is nearly $126 million higher than the preliminary budget offered by Gov. Bill Walker. The Senate is expected to propose significant reductions and has already introduced proposals for cuts.
Private sector tries to make due. Private construction efforts in Anchorage may offset the repercussions for businesses that are expressing doubt about Alaska’s economy and the failure, so far, of the Legislature to patch the state’s huge deficit. Building permits approved through early March by the Municipality of Anchorage totaled $85 million, 52 percent higher than the $56 million permitted during the same period in 2016. One of Alaska’s largest private employers, telecommunications company GCI, said earlier this month it will slash spending on Alaska projects this year, to $165 million from $209 million in 2016. The company will focus on capital improvements to its networks in rural Alaska and the North Slope oil fields, officials said.
The recession spreads. Ongoing economic struggles have spelled trouble for traditionally strong engineering positions throughout Alaska. The architecture and engineering industry through the first three quarters of 2016 was down about 600 jobs from the previous year, according to the latest numbers from the state labor department, a drop of about 12 percent from 2015. Ken Ayers, President of civil engineering firm Lounsbury and Associates, had to lay off 12 employees in 2016 and cut hours for others. “I think it will get worse. I think business is going to drop another 25 to 30 percent this year,” said Ayers. “And I think we will see firms that are on shaky financial ground probably fold.”
Alaska Dispatch News, Jeanette Lee Falsey, March 18, 2017
Alaska Dispatch News, Alex DeMarban, March 21, 2017
Alaska Dispatch News, Nathaniel Herz, March 21, 2017
The Hill, Timothy Cama & Devin Henry, March 20, 2017
Upstream Online, Anamaria Deduleasa, March 21, 2017
Associated Press, March 20, 2017