Busy Session Ahead Says Sen. Stedman


Sentinel Staff Writer

With the statewide ballot count making his re-election official, Bert Stedman says he is ready to get to work again as co-chair of the Senate Finance committee.

The state House and Senate races for Sitka’s districts were not affected by ranked choice because there were only two candidates in each race, and the Sitkans won by decisive margins.

Stedman carried Senate District A with 71 percent of the vote against fellow Republican Mike Sheldon of Petersburg; and Rebecca Himschoot, running as a nonpartisan candidate, won the House District 2 seat with 58.3 percent of the vote against Republican Kenny Skaflestad of Hoonah.

Stedman said Monday that he has been meeting with other senators since just after the election to talk about possible organization of the Senate in the upcoming session.

Stedman is the longest-serving co-chair of Senate Finance, and has won that seat again, this time in a bipartisan majority and with two other co-chairs.

“We had to wait for the final results to announce the potential organization within the Senate,” he said. “Although it was very clear on election night what the probable outcome was going to be you still need to respect the process and wait for the final count.”

Stedman said there were a few close races and he was interested to see the final outcome. He said he believes the voting system in Alaska is very good,  and the process this year - including the counts and any recounts - “should help assure the public of the quality of the election process in the state and you can rely on it to be accurate.”

While Stedman is the choice of the newly formed bipartisan caucus to be a Senate Finance co-chair in charge of the operating budget, nothing is final until the new Legislature adopts the committee on committee reports the first day of the legislative session, he said. He also will be vice chairman of the legislative budget and audit committee, which has members of both the House and the Senate.

Stedman said the most pressing issue of this session will be the operating budget, in particular as it is affected by the “inflation cycle.”

“That includes financial strains on the school system, the Department of Transportation and construction projects ... you can go right down the list,” he said. “It affects everything. It comes down to the economy.”

He said oil prices are at the “break even point” in terms of being able to balance the budget, and the state is coming off several years of the high prices for oil that have boosted state finances.

“Now we have the opposite going on,” he said. “So we’re going to most likely have downward pressure on our revenue and upward pressure on our expenditures and we’re going to have to see what’s what.”

The governor will release his budget on Dec. 15.

“You always take the governor’s submission with a grain of salt, until we have more time to refine it and there’s usually some challenges with it and things they miss, just inadvertently,” he said. The governor will start his amendment process around mid-February.

With a busy agenda and a lot of new members in both houses, Stedman is expecting the session to last the full 120-day limit set by statute.

“It takes time to understand the issues to make good decisions,” he said.

Stedman said another challenge that has been growing is the lack of flexibility in drawing up a budget “because we don’t have the massive savings set aside in cash.”

“So it’s going to be critical we take a multi-year view – a three- to four-year view as we set up this budget,” he said.

In his final reflections on the 2022 election, Stedman said he appreciated the support that gave him solid wins in nearly all precincts of Senate District A.

“In the four precincts I didn’t carry I lost by one vote in two of them, five votes in another, and seven in another,” he said. “But most of the precincts on average was 70 percent so that’s very high. I definitely felt very supported in the election.”

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At a Glance

(updated 5-30-2023)

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 12:15 pm Tuesday, May 30.

New cases as of Tuesday: 165

Total cases (cumulative) statewide – 298,078

Total (cumulative) deaths – 1,468

Case Rate per 100,000 – 22.64

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

COVID in Sitka

The Sitka community level is now "Low.'' Case statistics are as of Tuesday.

Case Rate/100,000 – 58.70

Cases in last 7 days – 5

Cumulative Sitka cases – 3,424

Deceased (cumulative) – 10

The local case data are from Alaska DHSS.






June 2003

Sitka Community Hospital board of directors has asked SEARHC to stop providing most health care services to non-beneficiary patients. “During the collaborative process SEARHC has said they’re happy to do anything they can do to help,” said SCH Administrator Bill Patten. “This is one of the things they can do – not provide services to non-beneficiaries.”



June 1973

What began 50 years ago in a Methodist parsonage in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, will be celebrated Sunday in Sitka. Les and Caroline Yaw’s four children invite the couple’s many, many friends to attend a golden wedding anniversary reception at the Centennial Building.