Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Gov. Bill Walker says his decision to veto the state grant given to the group that's been lobbying in vain to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling doesn't mean he's opposed to oil development there — only that it's time to find a new way.

Over the years, millions of dollars in state funds have been spent subsidizing the private lobbying effort of Arctic Power to open the ANWR coastal plain to oil drilling, but more than two decades later the state appears no closer to success.

Now Walker says he is changing directions with that effort and making an entirely different push to open what may be the state's last, best hope for a big new oil discovery...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Alaska’s oil tax credits are threatening to overwhelm the state budget and are expected to grow to as much as $1.7 billion a year, costing the state more than it spends for schools and becoming its single largest expense, Gov. Bill Walker said Wednesday.

Walker this week vetoed $200 million in oil tax credits. At a news conference in Juneau, he said his veto was aimed at sending the message the tax credit system is unsustainable and needs to be reformed by the Legislature.

“This will be the beginning of a discussion on how we go forward with that,” Walker said. He suggested there are other ways besides using tax policy to provide incentives for oil companies to drill for more oil...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Alaska Gov. Bill Walker announced Tuesday that he had signed state operating and capital budgets, approving $9.8 billion in spending sought by the Legislature but vetoing a possible $200 million worth of controversial oil tax credits.

Alaska's oil tax system includes provisions for tax credits that supporters have said would boost production, but the amount of credits claimed by companies soared beyond expectations.

When oil pries dropped sharply in the last year, tax credits projected to total $1.3 billion dwarfed production tax revenues of $320 million in the fiscal year beginning Wednesday. That actually gave Alaska a negative oil severance tax...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Valerie Mertz, chief financial officer of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp., has been named the temporary executive director following the resignation of long-time executive director Mike Burns.

Mertz had been filling in for Burns on an interim basis since June 1, but that interim appointment had been scheduled to expire Tuesday.

The formal appointment means a big pay boost for Mertz, who will receive an annual salary of $275,000 while serving in the temporary appointment, up from her previous salary of $157,000. The salary increase is retroactive to when Mertz began filling in for Burns.

The appointment was made Friday by the APFC Board of Trustees at a special meeting...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Small planes are becoming a cash cow for the cruise industry, including some of the biggest tour companies in the world, such as Holland America Line and Princess Cruises.

Cruise companies sell flight companies access to the million passengers a year they bring to Alaska. The flight companies in turn offer flightseeing rides through the spectacular Misty Fjords National Monument or helicopter hops to sled dog tours on a Juneau glacier. The aircraft tours have joined the whale watching, bus and rail trips they've long offered.

Carnival, the world’s biggest cruise company, now reports making about a quarter of its revenue from what it calls the “onboard and other” segment, not from the ticket prices that are its main revenue source...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- For the second year in a row, Alaska’s gross domestic product declined more than any other state's, the result of reduced North Slope oil production and much lower prices for crude.

In 2014, Alaska's GDP contracted by 1.3 percent, while Mississippi, the only other state with a negative number, shrank by 1.2 percent.

That's according to the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis, which produces quarterly GDP numbers for the nation and every June publishes numbers for states as well. In 2014 the national GDP, the total value of all the goods and services produced, grew by 2.2 percent.

All the numbers are adjusted for inflation...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- The tour plane that crashed Thursday in Misty Fjords National Monument, killing eight passengers and the pilot, was operated by Ketchikan-based Promech Air, a company that bills itself as the largest air taxi operator in the area and an important player in the tour business.

The company flies four Canadian-manufactured de Havilland Beavers, the heavy-duty, six-passenger planes that many people picture when they think of Alaska Bush flying, and five of their larger cousins, 10-passenger de Havilland Otters, according to the the company’s website. One of those Otters crashed Thursday...

Pat Forgey,Nathaniel Herz

JUNEAU -- A major Alaska tribal group is boycotting one of the state's top employers, hoping to pressure the Washington Redskins to change the team name, which they find disparaging.

The Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska announced Thursday it has told tribal employees to stop using FedEx, the global courier service.

FedEx is an important sponsor of the Washington Redskins, who play at FedEx Field in Maryland.

It is also an important employer in Alaska, with more than 1,000 employees at its hub at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- The nation’s top oil-producing states powered through the last recession with barely a hitch, but now the collapse in oil prices is hobbling budgets in Alaska and elsewhere.

But a new report says none is facing the same budget strains that Alaska is, highlighting differences in state tax structures.

“The oil boom drove North Dakota’s revenue growth, while declines in Alaskan oil production and cuts in petroleum taxes pushed Alaska tax revenue down,” the report said, contrasting a near-tripling of North Dakota revenues with a 57 percent decline in Alaska...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- A highly paid aide to one of the Senate’s Republican leaders remained on the Legislature’s payroll this year despite failing to show up for work for most of the legislative session, taking a long leave of absence after her arrest on a domestic violence charge.

Deborah Grundmann, 59, an aide to Sen. Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla, was accused of pointing a gun at another legislative employee, a 33-year-old in the Senate press office who plans to marry Grundmann’s son. The press-office aide lived in Grundmann’s Juneau home, where the incident took place Dec. 1...

Pat Forgey