Speculating on rumors and gossip surrounding Alaska politics is a time-honored tradition. It’s time for our weekly trip through the grand, gross, weird, wild and wonderful world of Alaska politics.
The controversial Guide Concession Program quietly got new life in the operating budget. The program was being pursued by the Department of Natural Resources through 2013 as a way to limit the number of hunting guides that can operate in a particular area. Legislation in the 28th Legislature faltered over concern that limitations on air transporters would effectively lock out resident hunters. According to the DNR’s website the program was mothballed because they ran out of funding.
With the prodding of guide industry’s lobbyists, the Senate created $1 million in federal receipt authority to get the project moving again. The budget line allows the state to take money from the feds, who have been interested in setting up a concession program on federal lands, to set up the program. The funding survived an objection in the conference committee, where House Minority Rep. Lance Pruitt said some of his members felt strongly against the funding. Senate Minority Sen. Donny Olson joined Pruitt in voting against the motion.
Now, resident hunters are asking Gov. Bill Walker to veto the funding. Resident Hunters of Alaska sent a letter to Walker outlining the concerns, which mainly focus on the impacts the program would have on resident hunters. Today’s the last day to get Walker’s attention.
Capital budget woes
There’s a lot of worry among contractors about the lack of a capital budget, spurred on in particular by a preliminary list of projects that might be halted. The list errs on the broader side of things, including more projects than would likely be stalled out. Still, there’s plenty of heartburn to go around.
Legislators are pretty confident that a capital budget could be completed quickly. That’s unlikely because it’s the vehicle for oil and gas tax credit payments, something that will be tied up in House Bill 111.
One of the items in the capital budget that is likely to be debated is the level of funding for the University of Alaska system. The Senate wants $5 million for UA deferred maintenance while the House wants $7 million.
Negotiation by press conference
July 10. That’s the day the Senate Majority plans to return to Juneau to pass an oil and gas tax credit bill. You’d think there’s a deal in place because Senate President Pete Kelly said it can be done in a day, maybe two. But it became pretty obvious before the news conference was over that the Senate didn’t have any buy-in or agreements with the House.
Many House members, including Rep. Geran Tarr, were surprised by the announcement. Negotiations had been tricky, but ongoing, and what the Senate pitched as an easy solution on House Bill 111 wasn’t what was being discussed.
It didn’t take long for the House Majority to begin to poke holes in the Senate’s proposal, which converts the cashable tax credits into a tax deduction. The state can’t afford to pay out $1 million a day, the Senate argues, but the bill says the state might be able be able to afford a million dollars less in future taxes.
The move was surprising for many reasons. The Senate appeared to largely adopt the long-running Democratic rhetoric on tax credits, though the solution was pretty much the Senate’s line. And for all the clutched pearls and feigned outrage over the House Majority’s all-or-nothing budget, the Senate Majority seems to be pulling the same move here.
House Majority Leader Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, is in the running for business manager of the IBEW. He’s been quiet about his plans if he wins the position in the July 10 election (a lot is happening on July 10), but there’s word that he would likely leave the Legislature. The thought is the five-term Democrat might be looking for a little more stability. After all, he’s got a two-year-old daughter with a birthday right at the end of session.
Juneau Democratic Sen. Dennis Egan sat in as acting Majority Leader during Tuesday’s technical floor session. With the departure of two members from the Majority this session could something be afoot? Probably not.
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner published its final afternoon edition 25 years ago today. The longest-running newspaper in Alaska made the transition to the morning edition on July 1, 1992.