Morning Headlamp – Legislature Looks To Get Its Fiscal House In Order

Senate dials up budget reductions. A new proposal by the Senate’s Majority leadership would cut another $1.5 million from a House proposal that already sliced $1.2 million from a preliminary spending plan for the Legislature. But it’s hard to know just how those reductions will directly affect lawmakers. As lawmakers look for agency cuts to close the state’s $3 billion deficit, a few things about the Legislature’s own spending habits are clear: lawmakers have reduced their travel to just over $300,000 last year from more than $1 million in 2011. They also approved one-week furloughs last year for almost all their employees. “The Senate will continue reducing its own budget and scrutinizing the state’s finances going forward,” Kelly said. And this year, the state House has capped and cut salaries for staffers during the legislative session, and says those measures will continue once lawmakers leave Juneau.

Honoring the fallen. The Alaska House on Monday unanimously approved a bill to guarantee health coverage for family members of firefighters and law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. House Bill 23, sponsored by Anchorage Rep. Andy Josephson, is the latest attempt at passing such legislation, which died in the Senate during a special session last year. The idea was originally introduced in the House by Representative Charisse Millett.

Public media on the chopping block. An Alaska Senate budget committee Tuesday proposed deleting all state spending on public radio and television, an effort that was debated last year. Wasilla Sen. Mike Dunleavy, who chairs the Senate subcommittee that controls spending on public broadcasting, is proposing to cut $2 million for radio and $630,000 for TV included in Gov. Bill Walker’s original budget proposal.

Divvying up the spoils. Native corporation assertions requesting ASRC to “share the wealth” after possibilities for drilling in ANWR have been discussed in Washington, D.C. have prompted North Slope Borough-based Arctic Slope Regional Corp., the only regional Native corporation enjoying rights to future oil revenues from subsurface land it owns beneath the refuge, to ask the others to back off. One of those letters, obtained by Alaska Dispatch News, demands that one of the other corporations stop asking Congress to require ASRC to share.

Conoco holds off on drilling. Despite demands by Gov. Walker’s administration, ConocoPhillips will not drill North Slope acreage this winter that it spent most of 2016 trying to acquire, according to an executive of the company that controls access to the land. Kuukpik Corp. CEO Lanston Chinn said in a March 10 interview that his company was recently informed by ConocoPhillips officials that the major producer would not drill an oil exploration well on jointly held leases near the Native village of Nuiqsut in the remaining weeks of the waning North Slope winter work season. The company notified DNR in December it would not drill the first Putu well until next winter after Nuiqsut residents voiced concerns about the program. Then on February 17, DNR Commissioner Andy Mack rescinded his November decision to expand the large Colville River oil and gas unit operated by ConocoPhillips.

New oil tax wrapped in climate change bill. A bill introduced by Anchorage Reps. Andy Josephson and  Geran Tarr would create a climate change commission with a permanent presence in the governor’s office. The commission, made up of department heads and community representatives from around the state, would work with the governor to develop a statewide climate strategy, potentially covering anything from relocating villages to promoting renewable energy sources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The commission’s work would be funded with a penny-per-barrel tax on oil, equal to a current tax that goes toward oil spill prevention and response efforts.

Given actions taken by the Co-Chairs this session Headlamp is not surprised they introduced this bill. Increasing taxes, and pushing anti-development, anti-energy legislation has now become commonplace by the Co-Chairs of the Resources Committee in the state with the largest reserves of oil, gas and mineral resources in the nation.


First Reads

House bill would give free insurance to survivors of first responders killed on job

Alaska Dispatch News, Nathaniel Herz, March 15, 2017

Alaska Senate again targets public broadcasting for budget cuts

Alaska Dispatch News, Nathaniel Herz, March 15, 2017

Alaska lawmakers target their own budget for cuts – with some exceptions

Alaska Dispatch News, Nathaniel Herz, March 15, 2017

New cuts from Alaska state Senate would hit ferries, health care for poor and disabled

Alaska Dispatch News, Nathaniel Herz, March 15, 2017

Security expert: There’s no icebreaker race with Russia in the Arctic

Arctic Now, Ragnhild Gronning, March 15, 2017

As hopes for drilling in ANWR rise, Native corporations argue over potential riches

Alaska Dispatch News, Alex DeMarban, March 15, 2017

Village corporation says ConocoPhillips will drop drilling effort

Alaska Journal of Commerce, Elwood Brehmer, March 15, 2017

Climate bill faces tough sledding in Alaska legislature

Alaska Public Media, Rachel Waldholz, March 14, 2017