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Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell offered a new attack on the state’s current oil tax regime in his State of the State speech Wednesday, saying that one of its key attributes for encouraging new production has been a failure.

Parnell said he wants to reduce “tax progressivity" – currently, the state tax grows with per-barrel prices and profits – but he also came out against another key part of the ACES oil tax system, one that reduces taxes for companies investing in Alaska...

Pat Forgey

Like many states, Alaska is on the hook for billions in future retirement obligations, what's known as the “unfunded liability” for school, state and municipal retiree pensions and health care.

For Alaska, that amounts to $11 billion -- more than the entire state government costs to run for a year. But Alaska does have something that no other state has: piles of cash. The state's Constitutional Budget Reserve , coincidentally, currently holds $11 billion...

Pat Forgey

A federal review questions whether shareholders of Alaska Native corporations are getting the information they need to guide the corporations that have become a powerful force in Alaska's economy over the last four decades...

Pat Forgey

Alaska's most experienced lawmakers got the jump on their colleagues Monday with the first release of pre-filed bills before the 28th Alaska Legislature convenes next week.

The initial bill filings including 56 bills and three constitutional amendments. Many resurrect failed efforts from last year, the end of the two-year 27th Alaska Legislature, with solid Republican control possibly offering new hope for passage.

The likely focus of this year's session should be Gov. Sean Parnell's ongoing effort to roll back taxes for the state's big oil producers – although his exact plan has yet to be made public...

Pat Forgey

Two Alaska Native legislators were at the peak of power during the last legislative session in Juneau.

Even though they weren't serving as Senate President or House Speaker, they held two of the four Finance Committee co-chair positions. Those are the less visible but perhaps more powerful positions where spending decisions on operating and capital budgets are made. Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel , held one of those positions in the Senate, while Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Haines , held a similar spot in the House.

It will be much different in the upcoming session...

Pat Forgey

Health-care jobs have contributed to Alaska's economic growth for more than a decade, but reining in that growth may be crucial to keeping the rest of the state's businesses and governments prospering.

“Health care costs are eating the state's lunch,” said Dr. Ward Hurlburt, the state's chief medical officer.

Hurlburt’s view is one heard across state government, where the cost of providing health care to state employees and retirees has soared over the last decade. From 2001 to 2010, the state of Alaska's health-care bill more than doubled, rising annually at 9.4 percent per year. Where Alaska had been spending $856 million for health care in 2001, it was spending $1.9 billion in 2010.

Businesses and municipal governments express similar concerns...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU, Alaska -- It's not rising University of Alaska tuition that's leaving graduates with crippling debt loads. Instead, it's the students themselves who are at fault for borrowing to support lifestyles they can't afford, say President Pat Gamble and members of the university's Board of Regents...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Ruben Pereyra has left the hospital but his battle with the ravages of flesh-eating bacteria is not over.

Pereyra, a Juneau school bus driver who was flown to Seattle in June for treatment of the rare but dangerous disease, spoke to the Juneau Empire for the first time this week.

"I'm feeling a lot better than I did a month ago, a month and a half ago," he said. "It's kind of scary leaving the hospital but I'm excited at the same time."

Pereyra will have to stay near the hospital for 90 days as doctors work to rehabilitate his arm where it was ravaged by the flesh-eating bacteria, also called necrotizing fasciitis. That's the same kind of bacteria that can cause strep throat...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- A Juneau man is recovering from a horrific attack from flesh-eating bacteria, and will keep his badly damaged arm, his wife told the Juneau Empire.

Ruben Pereyra cut his left hand in what appeared to be a relatively minor accident a month ago, but somehow developed a case of necrotizing fasciitis, or flesh-eating bacterial, said wife Ana Pereyra.

They had feared Pereyra was going to lose his arm, and he had even given doctors at Harborview permission to amputate if they needed to stop the progression of the disease, she said.

"They were able save his arm, but he's a lefty and his left arm is now too stiff to use," she told the Juneau Empire...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- The Juneau house in which Judge James Wickersham lived, known officially -- and appropriately -- as the House of Wickersham has begun receiving some upgrades from the state Division of Parks and Recreation, and has also put some controversy behind it.

Wickersham was one of the most significant Alaskans from territorial days, laying the foundation for Alaska to become a state. As its delegate to Congress he won approval for an elected legislature, funding for the Alaska Railroad, and creation of the college that later became the University of Alaska, according to the Parks division's House of Wickersham history.

He lived in the House of Wickersham from 1928-1939...

Pat Forgey