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Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- The gubernatorial campaigns tussled over budgets and budget cuts Monday at a debate in Juneau, each trying to sound fiscally conservative, but not too fiscally conservative, in a city reliant like no other in Alaska on government spending.

Gov. Sean Parnell and the Republican Parnell-Dan Sullivan ticket was given a warm reception and vocal support at Monday's debate. But new "unity" ticket challenger Bill Walker, along with Juneau's Byron Mallott, had a smaller cheering section there as well.

Juneau Chamber of Commerce officials said Libertarian Care Clift had been expected to attend but missed her plane...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- The Alaska Permanent Fund won't be following the lead of California's huge CalPERS public pension fund, which just made the startling decision to stop investing in hedge funds.

But Mike Burns, executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp., which manages the Permanent Fund, says he understands why CalPERS managers did what they did.

"We think about it all the time," he said.

Hedge funds were created to "hedge" risk similar to an insurance policy. Big investors would use hedge funds to balance investment risks, like making investments that would go up if the stock market was to fall...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Calls for big investors to stop investing in companies that produce fossil fuels are picking up steam but the Alaska Permanent Fund has been doubling down on its investments in the oil and gas industry.

The $51 billion fund has long bought stocks of companies involved in the oil and gas industries but it is now making direct investments in oil and gas companies, hoping to capture even more of the big profits others have been earning...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- The Alaska Housing Finance Corp. has ended another year with a financial loss, the state-sponsored company's board was told Wednesday at its annual meeting in Juneau...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- A magnitude 5.9 earthquake that struck Southeast Alaska woke residents and rattled shelves but did little damage -- except to one company.

Alaska Communications System Group’s crucial undersea fiber-optic cable providing phone, Internet and other data services to Southeast Alaska was severed.

It was a bad break for the venerable phone company, which has struggled to reinvent itself for a new telecommunications world, and it highlighted what's become an increasingly uphill battle for survival.

AT&T is Alaska's largest cellphone provider, and local competitor General Communications Inc. has been slowly been taking the lead over Alaska Communications for second place...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- The Alaska Department of Transportation released a new plan for a Juneau road Thursday, with Gov. Sean Parnell's re-election campaign following up later by highlighting his support for the road and challenging opponent Bill Walker to do the same.

The new plan for what's formally called the "Juneau Access Project" would cost $574 million to build, up $100 million from previous estimates, and is one in a lengthy list of megaprojects that Alaska has long studied but been unable to build.

This effort, too, is likely to be challenged, with an environmental group calling it an "incredible boondoggle."

The new road plan and cost numbers came out in a new draft supplemental environmental impact statement released by the department...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- The administrator of the Alaska Legislature's Select Committee on Legislative Ethics resigned this week, having been on the job only since June.

Reggie Drummond was formerly with the U.S. Army Inspector General's Office, where he was an Assistant Inspector General in Alaska for the last six years of a 26-year military career.

Ethics committee chair Gary Turner declined to comment on Drummond's rapid departure from the job he was just hired to do, but Drummond himself said there was no big story -- he just wasn't a good fit for the job.

"It was nothing. I simply didn't enjoy the job and I quit," he said...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Gov . Sean Parnell Wednesday will announce the amount of the 2014 Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend, after having skipped the last two dividend announcements, a move that prompted one of his political opponent to accuse him of politicizing the announcement.

Alaska Dispatch News has estimated this year's dividend, which comes from the earnings of the Alaska Permanent Fund, at about $1,930 . The higher number comes as fund investments and the multi-year calculation formula suggest a dividend rebounding from the last two years' lows of $900 or less.

Parnell is running for re-election this year, along with lieutenant governor candidate Dan Sullivan...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- The state of Alaska is weighing in on the side of the federal government in court, hoping to help keep alive a U.S. Forest Service timber sale in Southeast, and with it what's left of a once-booming industry.

The Forest Service in August announced the Big Thorne sale on Prince of Wales Island, with nearly 150 million board feet of timber badly needed by local mills, but was almost immediately challenged in court by the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council and other environmental groups.

Gov. Sean Parnell announced this week that Alaska would seek to join the case on the side of the Forest Service.

“It is important that we take an active role in the litigation and represent the interests of Alaska’s families and communities,” he said...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Prince of Wales Island is slated to get Alaska Marine Highway System ferry service next summer, but the primary goal isn't to improve transportation.

The reason the ferry LeConte will start serving the island, as well as an unused ferry terminal south of Petersburg on Mitkof Island, is to bail the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities out of a tight spot and potentially save the state millions of dollars.

The two unused terminals were built with federal money more than a decade ago, at a time when Alaska's congressional delegation was able to bring big bucks to the state for projects of sometimes questionable economic viability...

Pat Forgey

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