Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Questions are being raised about a $16.7 billion natural gas property tax deal the Walker administration has reached with producers and whether the certainty it provides may come at the expense of local governments. At a Friday meeting of a group of local governments known as the Municipal Advisory Gas Project Review Board, the Fairbanks North Star Borough questioned whether the producers who would be paying the property taxes on the $55 billion project were getting a tax break, as well as tax certainty. Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins, accompanied by Mayor-elect Karl Kassel, began by saying the state should base its calculations on a $65 billion initial construction cost, because there will likely be overruns. That's important, because Revenue Commissioner Randy Hoffbeck has been...Pat Forgey
JUNEAU -- The Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. has selected as its new executive director Angela Rodell, the candidate with the shortest tenure in the state, but perhaps the broadest financial background of the finalists for the position. The other finalists for the job of managing the $52 billion fund were former University of Alaska Fairbanks Chancellor Brian Rogers of Fairbanks, McKinley Capital Management executive Alex Slivka and former Alaska USA Trust CEO Glenn Cipriano, both of Anchorage. Rodell, 48, was commissioner of the Alaska Department of Revenue, and also an APFC trustee, under Gov. Sean Parnell and lost that position with the change of administrations last fall. She lives in Juneau. Rodell was named to the executive director position Friday following a short executive session...Pat Forgey
JUNEAU -- The Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation has scheduled a special meeting of its board of trustees Friday morning, where it is expected to name its new executive director. The trustees spent a full day Wednesday interviewing four candidates and then discussing their merits in an executive session. Candidates for the job include former Revenue Commissioner Angela Rodell,former University of Alaska Fairbanks Chancellor Brian Rogers, McKinley Capital Management executive Alexander Slivka and former Alaska USA Trust Company CEO Glenn Cipriano. Friday's meeting will include a possible further executive session, before the board expects to "finalize" its selection to lead the $52 billion fund, said Laura Achee, spokesperson for the corporation. The new executive director will succeed Mike...Pat Forgey
JUNEAU -- The Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation is in the process of hiring a new executive director, at a time when state leaders are increasingly looking to the fund for ways out of an expected multi-year budget crisis. Questions about how that will affect the $52 billion fund came as the fund's board of trustees met at their capital headquarters Wednesday for a full day interviewing in public and reviewing behind closed doors four finalists for the job of executive director. Eventual decisions about if and how to use the state savings account will not be made by the fund's leaders or managers, but will instead be made by Gov. Bill Walker, the Alaska Legislature, and Alaskans themselves. Still, the candidates were peppered with questions about the new role the fund is likely to play in...Pat Forgey
JUNEAU -- The Alaska Marine Highway System is proposing tying up ferries and slashing service next summer, in anticipation of further cuts in next year's budget. "This is disconcerting, to say the least, for those of us who rely on the Marine Highway System," said Robert Venables of Haines, chair of the Marine Transportation Advisory Board. In a Tuesday letter to businesses and communities served by ferries, AMHS general manager John Falvey said the cuts are "based on an assumed funding level," but he maintained essential, core services to ferry-dependent communities would continue. The Department of Transportation and Public Facilities is proposing the ferry system keep three of 11 ships at the dock all summer, including its two newest and one of its more than 50-year-old original...Pat Forgey
JUNEAU -- Alaska's investment earnings last year plunged by nearly 70 percent from the previous year's record earnings of $8 billion. The bulk of this year's investment earnings of about $2.6 billion came from the Permanent Fund for the fiscal year that ended June 30. The investment earnings are the profits the state makes from its more than $60 billion in savings, not counting savings obligated for responsibilities, such as the state's retirement trust funds. The decrease in investment earnings comes as state leaders are increasingly looking to use the Permanent Fund to solve the problem of how to pay for state government at a time when declining oil prices have dramatically reduced revenues. "There's absolutely no way to avoid the Permanent Fund being part of the solution," said Randy...Pat Forgey
JUNEAU -- Angry Juneau seniors are accusing the city government of targeting them with an unfair tax increase, and some are threatening retaliation. The threats range from withholding their volunteer labor and donations to nonprofits to retribution at the ballot box -- and even leaving town for places where they say seniors are considered assets to the community. "The amount of hours we put in and give to this city are phenomenal, and you want to balance your budget on our backs," said retired federal employee Nora Laughlin. She was speaking to the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly, and what's got Laughlin and other older residents so worked up is the loss of their blanket exemption to the city's 5 percent retail sales tax. Currently, residents aged 65 and older can get a card from the...Pat Forgey
JUNEAU -- Blasting North Slope Borough Mayor Charlotte Brower's "egregious" conduct and a "glaring lack of cooperation" with its investigation, Alaska's top elections regulator slapped her with a $34,460 fine, along with an assessment for costs it said were driven up by that lack of assistance. The Alaska Public Offices Commission hit Brower with the unusually large civil penalty after a months-long investigation into her campaign for re-election to the mayor's post last year. The fine appears to be the largest ever against a candidate in Alaska, and one of the largest campaign violation penalties ever sought by APOC. Brower never filed her 2014 end-of-the-year disclosure report, due in January, or ever provided complete information APOC investigators requested. From what information...Pat Forgey
JUNEAU -- A legislative budget scheme that may have been used to make budget numbers look better in the past threatens this year to drive up the state budget by $45 million. Now, the Alaska Retirement Management Board says it will resist legislative direction to take an action that some members said was "not actuarially sound" and come up with its own budget numbers. Board member Sheldon Fisher, Gov. Bill Walker's commissioner of the Department of Administration, called the board's action "prudent" and questioned whether legislators really knew what they were doing when they attempted to change how retirement contributions are calculated. "It's not something the Legislature considered in a very deep or substantial way," Fisher said during a board meeting Thursday in Fairbanks. Board...Pat Forgey
JUNEAU -- In Wrangell, the state has stepped in to clean up a badly contaminated junkyard after federal assistance fell through. The Southeast island town of 2,400 couldn't afford the cleanup and had originally looked to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for help. "We'd been working with them over 3 to 4 years and they did an assessment that found very high levels of lead and some other things," said Carol Rushmore, Wrangell's planning and zoning administrator. The former Byford Salvage junkyard for decades accepted cars, drums and various other items, including batteries and tires, before going out of business in the 1990s. A new owner shipped out cars and metal and tried to clean up the site but failed, and has since vanished. But just as Wrangell was counting on a federal grant...Pat Forgey