SMILE! – The Pacific High School graduating class poses outside Harrigan Centennial Hall Saturday afternoon prior to their commencement ceremony. Because of COVID-19 concerns the ceremony was not open to the public. Pictured are Eric Alvarado,Chelsea Taylor, Madison Roy-Mercer, Lindsey Bartolaba, Melissa Gibson, Douglas Johnson, Korbin Tugmon, George Stevenson, Jayvan Iya-Kowchee and Elizabeth Newell. Sitka High School will hold its graduation ceremony Monday, May 24. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Stedman Gets Post As Finance Co-Chair

Sentinel Staff Writer
    Sitka’s Sen. Bert Stedman has been named co-chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee when the next Legislature opens in mid January.
    “It’s a coveted position because of its clout,” Stedman said. “Everything comes through Finance – most everything.”
    He will be overseeing the state operating budget, and Sen. Natasha von Imhof, an Anchorage Republican, will be the other co-chair, in charge of the capital budget and legislation.
    “It doesn’t mean we’ll give our district or region preferential treatment, but it puts me in a good position to know if we get fairly treated and to deal with it,” Stedman said. “It’s not going to save the Marine Highway from fiscal adjustments but it puts me in a good position to work with the administration and other colleagues to make sure we have a transportation system.”
    The upcoming session will be a tough one, given the expected $2 billion shortfall the Legislature will be dealing with for fiscal year 2020.
    The Alaska Marine Highway System, the Permanent Fund and the dividend program, crime issues, and general government costs are among the issues facing the Legislature.
    Marine Highway operations will be affected by the cancellation of the Lynn Canal road north from Juneau, design modifications needed on the new ferries, and an expected multimillion-dollar change order on the construction contract.
    “I’ve encouraged the labor force to work with management to modify work rules,” Stedman said. “We don’t have the numbers in the Legislature to dictate how the Marine Highway will be operated and managed. In the Senate it’s just Gary Stevens (Kodiak) and myself in the majority.”
    Stedman said he expects the new governor, Mike Dunleavy, will take a tough approach in labor negotiations.
    The budget will again be a challenge, with costs going up by $200 million to $300 million just to “keep the budget flat” in 2020, Stedman said.
    “If we want operating costs to go down, we need to start with reductions of $250 million,” he said. “It’s going to be very, very difficult. We would have to do major budget reductions. It’s going to impact programs.”
    Stedman is also interested in legislation to protect the Permanent Fund. In his campaign for governor Dunleavy said he wants to double this year’s $1,600 dividend tor next year’s payout, and give Alaskans a one-time payment of $3,700 to make up for dividend reductions between 2016 and 2018.
    “I would expect him to seriously put his promises to the electorate on the table (with the Legislature) for implementation,” Stedman said. This year’s budget was balanced by dipping into the Permanent Fund reserves, an action that Dunleavy opposed, leaving an unanswered question of where the money will come from to cover spending that the state’s oil income is far short of covering.
    Stedman says he wants to protect the Permanent Fund earnings reserve, now at $18 billion, to prevent it from being spent.
    “It’s not protected. ... I’m working to lock the safe, start spinning the dial and swallow the key,” he said.
    A few options for protecting the earnings reserve include depositing it into the corpus of the Permanent Fund, or limiting the amount that can be taken out of it to fund government and the dividend program through a constitutional amendment.
    Stedman said he also wants to focus on crime during the next session.
    “We’ve seen the problems here in Sitka, with shootings we’ve had in the past year – and there’s been more than one,” he said. “We have issues here, in Ketchikan, on Prince of Wales Island. ...”
    The population centers of the state have problems too: “It’s murder and mayhem in the Railbelt,” Stedman said.
    Many legislators blame Senate Bill 91, which reduced certain felonies to misdemeanors, for part of the problem.
    “I didn’t support Senate Bill 91 – I don’t support treating them with warm, fuzzy gloves,” Stedman said. “I’m more for locking them up, throwing away the key and getting them off the streets. We now have opioid issues in the schools.”
    Stedman was Senate Finance co-chair from 2007 to 2012, but in those years he was overseeing capital projects and legislation. In his new role on the committee starting in January he said his goal will be to have “more transparency and fairness” in the budget.
    “It’ll be fun to do a different role,” he said. “I’ll enjoy that but it’s a workload, no doubt about that. ... It’s nice to have representatives from Southeast in the middle of the decisions and have our voices heard – or you’re crying in the wilderness, outside the door.”


You have no rights to post comments

August 5, 2020

A Note To Our Readers

Reopening: Phase One:


On March 30, 2020, 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


Login Form



Alaska COVID-19 
At a Glance

(updated 5-17-21)

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 12:45 p.m. Monday.

New cases as of Sunday: 50

Total statewide – 66,814

Total (cumulative) deaths – 358

Total (cumulative) hospitalizations – 1,542

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

The City of Sitka posted the following update on COVID-19 cases in Sitka as of 5 p.m. Friday.

Active cases in Sitka – 7

Hospitalizations (cumulative) in Sitka – 5

Cumulative Sitka cases – 372 (325 resident; 46 non-resident)

Cumulative recovered – 364

Deceased (cumulative) – 1

The local case data are from the City of Sitka website.

• • •


Sitka Vax Stats 

The State of Alaska DHSS reported Monday the following statistics on vaccinations for Sitka.

Partially vaccinated – 4,978 (71.64%)

Fully vaccinated – 4,612 (66.37%)

Total population (16+) –6,949

Sitka has vaccinated (with at least one dose) 1,245 (84.24%) of its senior population (1,478 total), age 65 and older. 

Vaccination data for the City and Borough of Sitka can be found online at:





May 2001

Sitka High boys track team ran to a 2nd-place finish in Juneau while the girls finished fourth. Sitka long-jumper Derek Hirai leapt 19’9.5” for the 2nd highest jump in the state this year. ... Others doing well were Thor Hartwig, Matt Mangini, Damien LaMar, Jeff Loiselle, Logan Wild, Elgin Hollins, Brian Friske, Brian Mork, Mike Bagley, Cody Campbell ....

May 1971

New Loyal Order of Moose officers, installed Saturday, are Earl Arnold, Grant Laiblin Jr., James Gardner, William Wakefield Jr., Eddielee Hodnett, Basil Riley, Lloyd Van Doren, James Firestone Sr. and Lynden Kincaid.