TRAIL TRIMMING – Dyana Mutchler-Walsh trims trees and shrubs along the Castle Hill ramp this morning. Mutchler-Walsh is one of a half-dozen students building trails and doing trail maintenance this summer through a Southeast Alaska Independent Living program. The program wraps up Friday. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Gov Outlines a Budget That Banks on Saving

By BECKY BOHRER
Associated Press
    ANCHORAGE (AP) — Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy proposed a state budget Wednesday that would rely heavily on savings, after a push for deep cuts during his first year in office resulted in fierce public backlash that fueled a recall effort.
    The new proposal leaves room for discussion on what services the state should provide and how it should pay for them, Brett Huber, a top adviser to the Republican governor, told reporters in Juneau.
    “It’s the governor’s job to help lead us through this discussion and make sure all Alaskans are represented,” he said, adding that revenues and spending “at some point have to come in line in a sustainable manner, and I think everything’s on the table in that discussion.”
    Dunleavy wants lawmakers to look at formula programs seen as cost drivers, which could include Medicaid and education. Brian Fechter, with the Office of Management and Budget, said the governor’s office currently isn’t planning to introduce legislation proposing specific changes but expects to engage with the Legislature on the issue.
    Dunleavy told reporters he is not proposing cuts to K-12 education but plans to roll out initiatives aimed at improving student outcomes.
    He plans to continue to push for constitutional amendments addressing issues such as a spending limit.
    The state, long reliant on oil revenues, has been using earnings from its oil-wealth fund, the Alaska Permanent Fund, to help fill a persistent deficit. New oil price and production estimates for the current budget year are lower than forecast earlier this year.
    A 2018 law seeks to limit withdrawals from earnings for government expenses and the annual check paid to residents as a dividend. That limit for the next budget year, starting July 1, is $3.1 billion.
    Dunleavy proposes paying a full dividend in line with a decades-old calculation last followed in 2015. Lawmakers, many of whom argued the formula is unsustainable, approved a permanent fund dividend that came out to $1,606 this year. Had the formula been followed, the check would have been $2,910, the Department of Revenue has said. Dunleavy maintains the rest of that amount should still be paid.
    There is a citizen effort underway aimed at qualifying for the ballot a proposed increase in taxes on legacy oil fields. The state has no personal income or statewide sales tax.
    Dunleavy said the budget outlined Wednesday would use about $1.5 billion from the constitutional budget reserve, one of two reserve funds that have been drawn down in recent years as lawmakers have struggled with how to resolve the deficit. As of Oct. 31, the constitutional budget reserve was valued at about $2 billion, according to the Department of Revenue.
    Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, an Anchorage Democrat, said Dunleavy’s budget proposal doesn’t appear as “draconian” as the one Dunleavy previously proposed but said it lacks long-term fiscal stability and vision.
    Begich, in a statement, said oil-tax changes “are a must for Alaska’s long-term fiscal sustainability.”
    House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, an independent, said there won’t be much support in the Legislature for “essentially depleting” the constitutional budget reserve. He said he thinks lawmakers will take a more “prudent approach” to funding essential services and a “reasonable” dividend that might require some level of draw from the reserve fund.
    Edgmon said it’s hard to say what shape any revenue debate might take during the session starting in January. He said Dunleavy seems to be pushing some of the decision-making into the laps of Alaskans and lawmakers. Dunleavy’s proposal basically punts on the revenue issue, he said.
    Anger over deep cuts proposed by Dunleavy for the current-year budget and subsequent vetoes helped fuel the recall effort. Dunleavy later agreed to reverse or moderate some of the cuts, including the level of cuts to the University of Alaska. Some targeted Medicaid cuts may not be achieved this year.
    The courts are expected to decide whether the recall push can advance to a second signature-gathering phase.
   

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.

The single copy price is again 75 cents. The news racks do not require coins to open, but we ask that the 75 cents for a non-subscription single copy sale be paid with coins in the slot.

– The Sitka Sentinel Staff

 

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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 8-6-20)

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 10:45 a.m. Thursday.

New cases as of Wednesday: 40

Total statewide – 3,484

Total (cumulative) deaths – 25

Active cases in Sitka – 19 (14 resident; 5 non-resident) *

Recovered cases in Sitka – 15 (11 resident; 4 non-resident) *

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 141.

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
August 2000

The city’s solid waste incinerator closed Wednesday, two days after the contract with Sheldon Jackson College for its operation ended. ... The city will ship all municipal waste except biosolids off-island to a landfill in Washington. The biosolids will be buried in the Kimsham landfill, Public Works Director Hugh Bevan said.

50 YEARS AGO
August 1970

Ernest Robertson, a Sitka resident most of his life, has moved back here with his family after a five-year sojourn in Anchorage. “Anchorage was just too big,” Ernie said. “It wasn’t like Sitka, where every time you go out on the street you meet your friends.”

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