SPLASH – An SUV makes a tremendous splash as it drives through a puddle on Lake Street Sunday morning.  A storm front Sunday and Monday morning brought with it torrential rain, thunder,  lightning and a power outage, but no major damage. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Gov Cuts ‘Devastate’ UAF, Slash Programs

By BECKY BOHRER
Associated Press
and Sentinel Staff

    JUNEAU (AP) — Gov. Mike Dunleavy slashed the University of Alaska system budget by $130 million on Friday, part of a series of vetoes he characterized as difficult but necessary amid an ongoing state deficit.
    Dunleavy, a Republican, also cut state support for public broadcasting, reduced spending for Medicaid and eliminated a program that provides money to senior citizens who have low or moderate incomes. The cut to the university is on top of a $5 million cut approved by lawmakers.
    Dunleavy, in a letter to legislative leaders, writes the budget “focuses on the state’s basic responsibilities while understanding our fiscal constraints.”
    Dunleavy told reporters he has faith in university leaders but said he doesn’t think the university system “can be all things to all people. And I think that’s, generally speaking, the state of Alaska. We can’t continue to be all things for all people.”
    He said there is no easy way out of the state’s budget predicament and suggested a full payout to residents this fall from the state’s oil-wealth fund, the Alaska Permanent Fund, could help meet the needs some Alaskans have. The state has wrestled for years with a budget deficit that has persisted amid low to middling oil prices.
    “We have to close this gap,” he said. “This budget touches practically every Alaskan. It’s not necessarily going to be easy. We never said it would be. But we do believe that in some of these cases, a full, statutory PFD could mitigate some of the issues.”
    PFD refers to the Permanent Fund dividend. Lawmakers have yet to finalize this year’s payout, which is the subject of an upcoming special session. Dunleavy has maintained the Legislature should follow a longstanding formula that has not been followed the last three years amid the budget deficit. A full dividend would cost an estimated $1.9 billion and equate to checks of around $3,000 for residents.
    Some legislators say the formula is unsustainable, particularly as the state has been using fund earnings — long used for dividends — to help pay for government.
    Minority Senate Democrats denounced Dunleavy’s budget as short-sighted.
    “The governor’s vetoes today would crash Alaska’s economy and trash our future,” Sen. Jesse Kiehl, a Juneau Democrat, said in a statement. “Now it’s up to the Legislature to protect our state, for this generation and the next.”
    Lawmakers have the ability to override budget vetoes if they can muster sufficient support.
    Lawmakers themselves have faced divisions ahead of an upcoming special session, with legislative leaders proposing to buck Dunleavy’s chosen meeting location and other lawmakers insistent on following Dunleavy’s call to meet in Wasilla.
    Dunleavy said he plans to look at his options but hopes the Legislature meets in Wasilla.
    The state, which had long relied on oil to help pay for government, last year began using permanent fund earnings to help cover expenses. Alaska has no personal income or statewide sales tax and there was no consideration of any such taxes this year.
    Dunleavy’s predecessor, independent Gov. Bill Walker, unsuccessfully pushed tax proposals as part of a fiscal plan. Dunleavy said he’s taking a different approach that includes reduced state spending.  
    Jim Johnsen, president of the University of Alaska, called the university cuts “devastating,” and called an emergency meeting of the regents.
    The Anchorage Daily News said he told the regents that the university system will focus “wholly and strongly” on advocating that the Legislature override the governor’s veto.
    The Anchorage newspaper said Johnsen said cuts of $30 million to $60 million would have been “manageable,” but the veto adding $130.1 million to the $5 million cut approved by the Legislature “is more than twice the most extreme cut we anticipated,” and could result in the reduction of roughly 1,300 positions. He said furlough notices will be issued immediately to all university system staff.
    The state House majority coalition said Dunleavy’s budget vetoes “present an imminent threat to our economy and to all Alaskans, while continuing to fail to address the root cause of our state’s financial problems.”
    Speaker Bryce Edgmon said:
    “The Legislature presented Gov. Dunleavy with a responsible operating budget that struck a balance between protecting essential services and making tough but necessary budget cuts. Today, the governor made major vetoes that will have drastic, negative impacts on all Alaskans.
    “The fundamental question is now squarely before Alaskans. What’s more important: a healthy economy, our schools, university, and seniors, or doubling the Permanent Fund Dividend at the expense of essential state services? The governor has made his choice clear.”
    Under the state constitution the Legislature has until the fifth day of the upcoming special session to override the vetoes, if it chooses. An override would require the approval of 45 of the Legislature’s 60 members.
    Edgmon said after the first special session that the political landscape “does not seem to favor the 45-vote threshhold” under most circumstances.
    An item of particular interest in Sitka that is on the veto list is elimination of $250,000 in funding for the Mt. Edgecumbe High School Aquatic Center, which the Dunleavy administration proposes to sell.
    Among the 182 vetoes announced today, in a list compiled by the Anchorage Daily News:
    – $50 million reduction in Medicaid funding
    – elimination of the state senior benefits program
    – Alaska State Council on the Arts, $2.8 million
    – the one-time $30 million boost for K-12 schools
    – advance funding for K-12 schools in the 2020-2021 school year
    – direct state support for public radio and TV, $2.7 million
    – the ocean ranger cruise ship pollution inspection program, $3.4 million (This program was entirely funded with fees from the cruise ship industry and does not save tax dolalrs.)
    – funding for the “Online with Libraries” and “Live Homework Help” programs at public libraries, $800,000
    – $7.5 million reduction in adult public assistance programs
    – adult dental care under Medicaid, $27 million
    – a prosecutor assistant at Utqiagvik, $533,000
    – Village Public Safety Program, $3 million, plus another $3 million from the current fiscal year budget.
    – the Alaska wing of the Civil Air Patrol, $250,000.
    – community assistance payments to municipalities statewide, $30 million
    – school bond debt reimbursement, $48.9 million
    – $5.4 billion of a $9.4 billion transfer from the Permanent Fund’s earnings reserve to the corpus of the fund

August 5, 2020

A Note To Our Readers

Reopening: Phase One:

 

On March 30 the Daily Sitka Sentinel began taking precautions against the coronavirus, which was starting to show up in Alaska.

We closed our building to the public and four key employees started working remotely. Home delivery was suspended to protect our carriers from exposure to the virus.

Four months later, the virus is still with us and the precautions remain in effect.

In appreciation for the willingness of our subscribers to pick up their daily paper at drop-off sites, the Sentinel was free to all readers, and subscriptions were extended without charge.

As of August 1 the Sentinel is once again charging for subscriptions, but the present method of having subscribers pick up their papers at designated sites will continue.

The expiration date of all subscriptions has been extended without charge for an additional four months.

We thank our readers for their support in these uncertain times, and especially those who paid for the paper despite the free offer.

We look forward to the time when we can safely resume home delivery.

To check on the expiration of your subscription or to make a payment please call 747-3219. The subscription email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . We also will be mailing out reminder cards.

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– The Sitka Sentinel Staff

 

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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 9-28-20)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 11:50 a.m. Monday.

New cases as of Sunday: 115

Total statewide – 7,597

Total (cumulative) deaths – 56

Active cases in Sitka – 20 (11 resident; 9 non-resident) *

Recovered cases in Sitka – 44 (37 resident; 7 non-resident) *

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 286.

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

* These numbers reflect State of Alaska data. Local cases may not immediately appear on DHSS site, or are reported on patient’s town of residence rather than Sitka’s statistics. 

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20 YEARS AGO
September 2000

Sitka Open Golf Tournament winners are: Men’s Division – Semisi Funaki, Tom Mattingly and Gregory Martin. Women’s Division – Janet Schwartz, Judy Sudnikovich and Liza Martin. Youth Division – Elaina Mattingly, Matthew Way and Sidney Wyman.

50 YEARS AGO
September 1970

Lions Catch a Bear at Kake. They were on Lions Club business, but Willie Dick and Bill Pasek, Sitka, brought back a bear from Kake. Pasek shot the 6-foot-tall black bear after Lions Club business was ended. He and Dick brought the bear back to Sitka where Larry Ross and Dick Wight helped prepare it for a taxidermist.

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