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Posts from the 'Local News' category

Senate Finance hears from Legislative Finance Director about ‘fiscal crisis’

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

On Wednesday, the Alaska Senate Finance Committee received a briefing from David Teal, Director of the non-partisan Legislative Finance Division.  This is the third time that Teal has addressed the committee on the state’s projected multi-billion dollar revenue shortfall for the fiscal year beginning in July.  The new presentation included the most recent oil revenue forecast from the state’s Department of Revenue, and assumed that the Senate’s version of the state budget, which is currently in negotiation in conference committee, would be adopted for purposes of the model.

Under those circumstances, the Legislative Finance model show’s the state’s Constitutional Budget Reserve lasting for about seven years’ worth of budgets.  David Teal and some legislators expressed concerns about the projected rise in the price of oil, however.  For most of the briefing, the assumed value of a barrel of oil was left at $70.  Currently, a barrel of Alaska North Slope crude is worth about $62 on the open market.  With that assumption, the model shows the state running out of Constitutional Budget Reserve funds in 2018.

That projection assumes the Senate’s version of the next state budget, with estimated total reductions of around $800 million from the current budget.  The Alaska House of Representatives passed a different budget with fewer cuts.  According to the $70 per barrel assumption, either budget proposal would see the state’s Constitutional Budget Reserve run dry after 2018.  After that, the state could potentially tap into the earnings reserve for the Permanent Fund.

Teal says the Senate cut deeper into the state budget than he would have anticipated, but adds that he does not think it can be done again next year.  He demonstrated in the model recurring 10% cuts each year through 2025, and says they would not significant slow the rate at which the state is burning through reserves, assuming $70 per barrel oil.

Teal did acknowledge in the hearing that cuts show up faster than increases in revenue, such as taxes, since there is an implementation period.  Senate Finance members have said that alternate revenue streams could be discussed after the end of the 2015 session.

The Senate Finance Committee has scheduled a meeting with Pat Pitney, head of Governor Bill Walker’s Office of Management and Budget, for Thursday afternoon.

AK Senate Majority members answer questions about budget cuts

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

On Tuesday morning, members of the Senate Finance Committee from the Republican-controlled majority held a press conference defending their cuts to the state’s operating and capital budgets, including a controversial cut to education that includes the Mat-Su Borough School District.  KTNA’s Phillip Manning has more.

When asked why they were holding a special press-conference on Tuesday, members of the majority caucus on the Senate Finance committee said that they felt it necessary to emphasize the severity of the state’s revenue shortfall.  Pete Kelly, a Fairbanks Republican, says that the days of looking ahead to a ‘fiscal cliff’ are over.

“We’ve hit the fiscal cliff. We’ve fallen off the fiscal cliff.  This is it;  the time is now that we always talked about.  And, this budget cycle, we have tried to respond to the fact that we’ve fallen off the cliff, and we’re trying to save Alaska’s financial future.” (more…)

Troopers: Man still alive after Saturday double-shooting appears to have turned gun on himself

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Troopers say that the man who called 911 after a shooting in the Montana Creek area in the early hours of Saturday is the unidentified man currently in an Anchorage hospital, and that his gunshot would appears to be self-inflicted.

Beth Ipsen, spokeswoman for the Alaska State Troopers, says the initial investigation of the incident shows that the surviving man made the 911 call at 12:51 am.  Earlier statements from Ipsen say that the call consisted of a man telling the dispatcher that he had just killed someone.  Troopers used data from the caller’s cellular carrier to locate the scene of the shooting hours later.  At the scene, they discovered two men with gunshot wounds.   One of the two men, now identified as 33-year-old Andre Lafrance of Wasilla, was declared dead at the scene.  The other was flown to an Anchorage hospital in critical condition.

According to state court records, Lafrance last appeared in criminal court in early 2013, where he plead guilty to two theft charges.  Prior to that, a charge of attempted murder was dismissed by the prosecution in 2011.  In that case, Lafrance plead guilty to harassment and fourth-degree assault.

Beth Ipsen says the circumstances that lead to the shooting in Montana Creek are unknown and still being investigated.  No charges have been filed against the unidentified survivor as of Tuesday afternoon.

One Man Identified in Talkeetna Area Shooting

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Alaska State Troopers have released the identity of one of the men involved in a shooting in the early hours of Saturday in the Montana Creek area.

On Saturday, the Alaska State Troopers reported that a shooting in Talkeetna has left one man dead and another in critical condition.

According to the Alaska State Trooper spokeswoman Beth Ipsen, an unidentified man called 911 and told the operator that he had killed someone just before 1:00 am on Saturday.

Troopers used information from the caller’s cellular provider to locate the scene of the incident several hours later.  According to the report, two men were at the scene and had suffered apparent gunshot wounds.  One of the men, who Troopers have now identified as 33-year-old Andre Lafrance of Wasilla, was pronounced dead at the scene, and the other was flown to Anchorage, where is listed in critical condition. Beth Ipsen says there is not currently any indication that anyone other than the two men found at the scene was involved in the incident.

Troopers are attempting to contact next of kin of the hospitalized man.  The Alaska Bureau of Investigation is handling the case.

This is an ongoing story, and KTNA will provide updates as they become available.

Updated: Talkeetna Shooting Leaves One Man Dead, One Critically Injured

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Alaska State Troopers report that a shooting in Talkeetna has left one man dead and another in critical condition.

According to the Alaska State Trooper spokeswoman Beth Ipsen, an unidentified man called 911 and told the operator that he had killed someone just before 1:00 am on Saturday.

Troopers used information from the caller’s cellular provider to locate the scene of the incident several hours later.  According to the report, two men were at the scene and had suffered apparent gunshot wounds.  One of the men was pronounced dead at the scene, and the other was flown to Anchorage, where is listed in critical condition. Beth Ipsen says there is not currently any indication that anyone other than the two men found at the scene was involved in the incident.

Troopers are attempting to contact next of kin forth both subjects, and no information on the identity of either man has been released.  The Alaska Bureau of Investigation is handling the case.

This is an ongoing story, and KTNA will provide updates as they become available.

House Finance Puts $45 Million in Federal Funds Back into Knik Arm Bridge

Friday, April 17, 2015

In its version of the state capital budget, the Alaska House Finance Committee has added $45 million of federal funds for the Knik Arm Bridge.

If built, the bridge would span from Big Lake to Government Hill in Anchorage.  The project is supported by the Mat-Su Borough Assembly, but critics question its economic viability.  The bridge was initially under the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority, but that agency was shuttered last legislative session, and the state Department of Transportation now controls it.

The funds moved to the Knik Arm Bridge’s line item by House Finance come from federal highway money that the state receives each year and not from the state’s general fund.

Before the session, Governor Bill Walker issued an administrative order halting spending on six mega projects, including the Knik Arm Bridge.

Talkeetna Recycling Cmte. Looks to “Raise the Bar” on Fundraising

Friday, April 17, 2015

Efforts to establish a recycling program in Talkeetna continue to make significant financial progress, which is prompting organizers to consider expanding expectations for the program.

The plan for the recycling program is to have one or more three-compartment containers in Talkeetna, which the Mat-Su Borough would be responsible for hauling to Valley Community Recycling Solutions.  The Mat-Su Solid Waste Division is backing the program as a cost-saving tool, since recycling could slow the rate at which new landfill cells must be opened.  The Borough Assembly will vote on spending more than $2 million to close a landfill cell at next week’s meeting.

(more…)

Transmission Line Problem Causes Outage

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Shortly after 6:00 pm on Thursday, about 7,000 Matanuska Electric Association customers from Houston north lost power.  At the same time, areas of Fairbanks and North Pole also lost power.

MEA’s Director of Public Relations, Julie Estey says the outage is due to an issue with the Alaska intertie, the transmission line that runs from Anchorage to Fairbanks. She says that MEA and Municipal Light and Power are both checking the line.

There are unconfirmed reports of a lightning strike near the line in the Houston area. Estey says that it might be possible to re-energize the line if there is no damage. If there is damage, then it may be possible to back-feed from generators that are currently spinning up in Fairbanks.

Mat-Su School Budget Foresees Structural Deficit

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Mat-Su Borough School District has adopted a preliminary budget for the fiscal year beginning in July, but it could see significant changes.

In total, the school district’s budget is more than $235 million.  The current proposal asks the Mat-Su Borough Assembly for about $53 million of those dollars, which is an increase of about $1.4 million from last year.  The rest of the funding for Mat-Su schools comes from the State of Alaska.  In the budget proposal, district officials note the fact that the school budget is required to be submitted by the beginning of April, weeks before the legislative session ends.  This year, the district used numbers from Governor Bill Walker’s state budget proposal to craft its own budget.  Since then, additional cuts have been made to the education budget by the state senate in Juneau.

In this year’s budget documents, Mat-Su School District officials claim that, using current funding assumptions and extending them forward, the district will enter a period of structural deficit.  Current projections show an annual shortfall of between eight and ten million dollars each year from 2017 through 2019.  Those figures assume an annual three percent funding increase from the borough and no further increases or decreases by the state.

The Borough Assembly and School Board met jointly earlier this week to discuss the school budget.