Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS — The state expects to post a loss of about $100 million on oil production taxes this year, a situation that has created consternation and confusion in Alaska, where oil taxes are supposed to fill the state treasury, not drain it.

The loss is expected to climb to $400 million in the fiscal year that begins next summer, as the state predicts it will continue to pay more in production tax credits than it collects in oil production taxes.

The consternation comes in part from legislators trying to defend their support of the SB 21 tax change, and critics who say the loss exposes a deep flaw in the new tax rules...

Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS — While U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan wants to prohibit law enforcement agents of the Environmental Protection Agency from carrying guns — an idea triggered by what he describes as a reckless armed raid on miners in Chicken — an independent $50,000 state investigation commissioned by former Gov. Sean Parnell concluded that the agents were not reckless and did not act inappropriately.

“We found no evidence that federal or state employees broke any laws during the criminal compliance investigation,” Anchorage attorney Brent Cole said in a March 2014 report, which Parnell had called for after the governor had blasted the federal mine inspections as unwarranted intimidation...

Dermot Cole

If oil prices stay down and if the state focuses exclusively on cutting spending, it could run out of reserves and options in three years, the director of the Legislative Finance Division warned legislators.

While the governor announced plans Thursday night for more than a half-billion dollars in budget cuts, earlier in the day Legislative Finance Director David Teal said the state can’t afford to postpone action on new taxes and other revenue sources. The reserves, excluding the Alaska Permanent Fund, won’t last unless something changes...

Dermot Cole

Senators skeptical of Medicaid expansion decided to hire the Parnell administration’s top health official because they wanted his advice on Medicaid and other issues, the co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee said Thursday.

In discussing the Senate Finance Committee’s contract with former Health and Social Services Commissioner Bill Streur, Sen. Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, predicted the state has “no choice” but to cut spending on Medicaid...

Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS -- Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs of Ohio rose to the defense of the late William McKinley Wednesday with the latest in a long series of Buckeye State bills aimed at ending the Denali discussion and preventing a name change for the highest mountain in North America.

“Located in Alaska, Mount McKinley is the highest point in North America and has held the name of our nation’s 25th President for over 100 years,” Gibbs said in a press release. “This landmark is a testament to his countless years of service to our country.”...

Dermot Cole

The Walker administration on Tuesday approved plans to offer the oil company Caelus a reduction in royalty payments on its state leases if it would quickly develop an oil project on Alaska's North Slope that could produce 15,000 to 18,000 barrels a day.

“A substantial benefit the state receives from a royalty modification agreement is that Caelus is committed to develop the project soon,” Acting Natural Resources Commissioner Marty Rutherford wrote in a 22-page decision Tuesday . “Various deadlines make royalty relief conditional on (the company) sanctioning the project within the next three months and proceeding to first production in 2017.”...

Dermot Cole

The state transportation department said its attempt to use the power of eminent domain to force the owner to sell an Anchorage business in the path of the proposed Knik Arm Crossing came about because of a “misunderstanding” about the order from Gov. Bill Walker to stop spending money on the project.

“This issue has been resolved and the department will not be pursuing any right of way acquisitions until the administration has fully reviewed the Knik Arm Crossing project and further direction is provided,” Department of Transportation and Public Facilities spokesman Jeremy Woodrow said Tuesday. Walker called a halt to the eminent domain effort last week after he learned about it...

Dermot Cole

The administration of new Alaska Gov. Bill Walker released 17 transition reports Tuesday, packed with proposed priorities for the governor's four-year term. The recommendations deal with everything from how to manage state savings to tribal governance and paying the unfunded debts of the state's retirement systems.

The recommendations, from 17 different committees, may provide a preview of some of the subjects Walker will touch on his first State of the State and State of the Budget speeches he'll deliver Wednesday and Thursday, respectively...

Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS -- In 2003, the last time the state eliminated community revenue sharing , the City of Nenana had to shut down its police department, according to Mayor Jason Mayrand.

The state reinstituted the program five years later, and while Nenana has never been able to resurrect its police department, the annual infusion of revenue-sharing cash -- estimated at $115,000 this year -- is essential to keeping what remains of the local government in business, Mayrand said...

Dermot Cole,Pat Forgey

FAIRBANKS — Gov. Bill Walker, following up on a campaign pledge, ordered state agencies Friday to focus their energies on cutting energy costs for Alaskans.

In an executive order signed while on a trip to Fairbanks, Walker called on state agencies to do whatever they can to help Alaskans deal with energy prices, which he said have had a severe impact on people in many parts of the state.

During his campaign, Walker said he wanted to focus attention on the energy problem. He directed the head of the state Department of Commerce to take the lead to improve collaboration and coordination on energy issues for consumers.

Walker said Friday he wants the commissioner to "bring the appropriate parties together to find solutions for reducing Alaska's energy costs."...

Dermot Cole