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Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- The one highway on which Alaskans have long been encouraged to drink while traveling is the Alaska Marine Highway, but budget cuts will eliminate that pastime for some -- and possibly all, eventually -- state ferry travelers.

On Alaska state ferries, the designated driver is a licensed vessel captain, but unfortunately for some bar patrons, the bar is costing the ferry system more than it’s bringing in.

Department of Transportation and Public Facilities says that given tight state funds, and the fact that intoxicated passengers can occasionally be a problem for ferry crews, bars can no longer be justified...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- A state retirement bill signed and praised by Gov . Sean Parnell Monday will increase the state's unfunded liability and increase costs years into the future, actuaries told the Alaska Retirement Management Board this week.

"The first year, you're not even paying interest on the unfunded liability, and the unfunded liability grows," said David Slishinsky, an actuary with Buck Consulting, the board's main actuarial consultant.

That's because legislators changed the way required annual payments for the unfunded liability are calculated, reducing their costs for several years, and shifting much of the cost 20 to 30 years down the road. The liability now won't be fully paid off until 2039, Slishinsky said...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- A state retirement bill signed and praised by Gov. Sean Parnell on Monday will increase the state's unfunded liability and increase costs years into the future, actuaries told the Alaska Retirement Management Board this week.

"The first year, you're not even paying interest on the unfunded liability, and the unfunded liability grows," said David Slishinsky, an actuary with Buck Consulting, the board's main actuarial consultant.

That's because legislators changed the way required annual payments for the unfunded liability are calculated, reducing their costs for several years, and shifting much of the cost 20 to 30 years down the road. The liability now won't be fully paid off until 2039, Slishinsky said...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- The state ferry Tustumena is already a compromise, needing to be big and powerful enough to deal with the Gulf of Alaska's notoriously rough weather, but small and handy enough to maneuver in the sometimes-cramped small-town harbors where it provides service.

Now plans to replace the aging vessel are encountering criticism locally, as the Alaska Marine Highway System discovers how challenging it can be to strike a balance between seaworthiness and versatility.

The first problem is Kodiak, where the ferry dock is tightly wedged between a fish plant and a fuel dock, and can overhang both.

"An extra 25 or 50 feet would cause major, major, major conflicts with my operation," said Paul Lumsden, manager of the Trident Seafoods plant in Kodiak...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- The state ferry Tustumena is already a compromise, needing to be big and powerful enough to deal with the Gulf of Alaska's notoriously rough weather, but small and handy enough to maneuver in the sometimes-cramped small-town harbors where it provides service.

Now plans to replace the aging vessel are encountering criticism locally, as the Alaska Marine Highway System discovers how challenging it can be to strike a balance between seaworthiness and versatility.

The first problem is Kodiak, where the ferry dock is tightly wedged between a fish plant and a fuel dock, and can overhang both.

"An extra 25 or 50 feet would cause major, major, major conflicts with my operation," said Paul Lumsden, manager of the Trident Seafoods plant in Kodiak...

Pat Forgey

Alaskans' notorious self-reliance doesn't extend to our roads, where we rely on the federal government to pay the bulk of the bills for constructing and reconstructing the highways and byways of the 49th state.

Now that dependence could trigger disruptions in Alaska transportation projects. Due to gridlock in the U.S. Congress, funding for the highway trust fund is in jeopardy, threatening payments to states for an array of transportation projects.

"Congress needs to fix the highway trust fund before it runs dry," U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx wrote on his blog this week. That could happen as soon as August, he said...

Pat Forgey

Alaskans' notorious self-reliance doesn't extend to our roads, where we rely on the federal government to pay the bulk of the bills for constructing and reconstructing the highways and byways of the 49th state.

That dependence could trigger disruptions in Alaska transportation projects. Due to gridlock in the U.S. Congress, funding for the highway trust fund is in jeopardy, threatening payments to states for an array of transportation projects.

"Congress needs to fix the highway trust fund before it runs dry," U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx wrote on his blog this week. That could happen as soon as August, he said...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- A couple of Southeast Alaska mining prospects have struggled for years to put together financing that would enable them to begin production, but the state says a quarter of a billion dollars in state financing might be just the thing to get them going.

Mining has shored up the economy in the northern Panhandle for a number of years, but Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell says it could start bringing good-paying jobs to the depressed southern portion of Southeast as well...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- A couple of Southeast Alaska mining prospects have struggled for years to put together financing that would enable them to begin production, but the state says a quarter of a billion dollars in state financing might be just the thing to get them going.

Mining has shored up the economy in the northern Panhandle for a number of years, but Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell says it could start bringing good-paying jobs to the depressed southern portion of Southeast as well.

In Ketchikan, and on Prince of Wales Island, unemployment rates have ranged from 2 percent to 10 percent higher than in the capital city of Juneau in recent years. This week Parnell signed Senate Bill 99, which allows financing through the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- A move to shore up Alaska's troubled public retirement systems with $3 billion from state savings is coming under fire from some members of the board set up to ensure that an earlier costly pension debacle wasn't repeated.

This year's action by the Legislature comes with strings attached that could lead to problems down the road, they say.

"Any way you look at it, we've pushed these costs onto our kids and grandkids," said Kris Erchinger of Seward, a member of the Alaska Retirement Management Board ...

Pat Forgey

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