JUNEAU, Alaska – The Latest on issues the Alaska legislature is handling during its final days of session (all times local):
Attorney General Craig Richards says Gov. Bill Walker’s administration is generally pleased with a legislative proposal calling for structured, annual draws from Alaska Permanent Fund earnings. But the administration is suggesting some changes.
Richards says the administration is advocating for one of two options. One would be to put production taxes and royalties into the fund to help account for variability in revenues. The other, he says, would be to reduce the amount that’s drawn out if oil prices rise.
The House and Senate Finance committees released draft plans calling for annual draws of 5.25 per cent of the average market value of the fund for the first five of the preceding six fiscal years. Richards told House Finance Wednesday that’s a little aggressive as the bill is written.
An Eagle River senator says she hopes to avoid inflaming the state’s “fish wars” as her committee works on a bill that would raise fees for fishing and hunting.
Sen. Anna MacKinnon co-chairs the Senate Finance committee where HB 137 is being heard. The bill adds surcharges for areas requiring intensive management and a new sockeye salmon tag for fishermen on the most heavily used river in the state.
Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game estimates it could raise $12.6 million from the new fees in 2018.
MacKinnon’s co-chair, Fairbanks Sen. Pete Kelly, says long-running rivalries will be inflamed in a bill that raises fees on sport but not commercial fishermen.
The bill’s opponents say there is not adequate oversight on how Fish and Game will spend new revenue.
Alaska state Sen. Bill Stoltze says he will not seek re-election.
The first-term Republican senator from Chugiak made the announcement on the Senate floor on Wednesday, citing health issues among his reasons for not running again.
He says he felt it was the right time for him to do this.
Stoltze was first elected to the House in 2002 and served in that body until he was elected to the Senate in 2014.
Rep. Kurt Olson has also said he will not seek re-election. The six-term Soldotna Republican withdrew his letter of intent to run earlier this month.
Rep. Mike Hawker announced in 2015 that he had also decided not to seek another term. Hawker is currently undergoing treatment for cancer.
The Anchorage Republican has served seven terms in the state House.
The minority leader of the Alaska House says that if his caucus isn’t satisfied with changes to the state’s oil and gas tax credit program, it will be hard to hard to justify going into a major state savings account to help cover state costs.
Minority Leader Chris Tuck says is also would be hard to justify asking people to pay taxes or make changes to the Alaska Permanent Fund dividends without tax credit changes at least on par with what Gov. Bill Walker has proposed.
Legislative leaders have said they would look to draw from the constitutional budget reserve to help cover budget costs. To meet the threshold generally needed to do that in the House, 30 votes are needed, meaning some support from the Democratic-led minority is necessary.