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AK LNG pre-FEED work continues with uncertain future

KENAI — Local representatives of the Alaska LNG Project said that although their leaders have spoken of possible delays, employees of the project remain set on smaller steps before them.

These steps include creating final drafts of impact reports and completing property acquisitions for the prospective pipeline’s liquefaction facility and export terminal in Nikiski.

Tax credit changes show unpredictability, consultant says

A consultant to the Legislature reviewed the oil and gas tax credit changes proposed by Gov. Bill Walker and concluded the State of Alaska needs one thing above all else: fiscal stability.

GUEST COMMENTARY: Time for another approach on gasline fiscal certainty

Alaskans have just been told that gasline contract negotiations have not progressed satisfactorily and thus there is no time left to get a constitutional amendment allowing a vote on fiscal certainty on the 2016 ballot. The proposed constitutional amendment would provide the producers with the necessary assurances that the State would not arbitrarily increase the tax rate over the life of the LNG project.

GUEST COMMENTARY: Completing Port Mac rail extension will expand economy

I’m sure columnist Charles Wohlforth felt a genuine lump in his throat as he pedaled for miles on the Port MacKenzie Rail embankment, worried about the sinking Alaska economy and casting blame on an unfinished rail project in his Feb.1 column.

INSIDE REAL ESTATE: Anchorage’s mixed-use rules reflect mixed-up priorities

During the 10 years of negotiation and conflict over the new Title 21 land use regulations which finally became ordinance in January 2016, the Municipality of Anchorage planning department held firm on their vision of encouraging mixed-use development by creating new zoning categories as one avenue to solving Anchorage’s housing shortage.

However, what works on paper and theory isn’t necessarily financially feasible in reality. In other words, mixed-use in Anchorage has yet to be “ground tested” on new, non-subsidized, vertically-integrated projects.

GUEST COMMENTARY: Alaska’s second-hand economy funds itself and heals society

The new millennium has introduced many new ways of spending, saving, and earning money. We have the sharing economy, the gig-economy, the on-demand economy. The Salvation Army specializes in what is often referred to as the second-hand economy, an increasingly important part of the larger, mainstream economy.

The second hand economy is just what it sounds like: the buying and selling — or donating — of durable goods and services. Craigslist, yard sales, thrift stores.

Juneau Assembly supports Juneau Hydropower plan

JUNEAU — The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly has pledged its support to Juneau Hydropower Inc.’s $25 million district heating plant proposal, which company officials said will keep heat prices low and carbon emissions lower.

At a Feb. 22 Assembly work session, Juneau Hydropower CEO Keith Comstock and Duff Mitchell, the company’s managing director, pitched their plan to use water from the Gastineau Channel to heat Downtown Juneau. They didn’t ask for much in return.

Legislative legal, CFEC question Walker’s adminstrative order

Ed. note: An earlier version of this article referred to Rep. Stutes' bill as not having passed the fisheries committee. The bill did pass that committee in 2015 and is currenlty awaiting a hearing in the House Resources Commitee. 

The Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission is once again fighting to stay abreast of fisheries officials who want to narrow its scope of duties.

Beyond growth and value: Investors are tired of choosing

NEW YORK (AP) — Coke or Pepsi? Biggie or Tupac? Growth or value?

For decades, investors chose their stock mutual funds from one of two distinct camps. On one side were growth funds, which bought only the most dynamic stocks with the fastest-rising revenues and profits. On the other were value funds, which hunted the bargain bin for stocks with cheap prices relative to their earnings.

Main Street holds up as Wall Street struggles

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street is hurting, and Main Street doesn’t care. It’s got burgers and cars to buy.

Big losses in stock markets around the world this year have the wingtip-set fretting, but regular consumers across the United States are confident enough to open their wallets and spend more. It’s an about-face from the early years of the economic recovery, which began in 2009, when stocks and big banks were soaring but many on Main Street felt like they were getting left behind.

Trump not yet on track to win candidate nomination

WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite Donald Trump’s string of Super Tuesday victories, the billionaire businessman must do even better in upcoming primaries to claim the Republican presidential nomination before the party’s national convention this summer, an AP delegate count shows.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is emerging as the candidate who might stop him — with a little help from Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

TAPS value settled at $8B for 5 years

The next court battle over the value of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System won’t be for at least another five years.

Two settlements over the taxable value of TAPS between the State of Alaska, its owners, and municipalities along the pipeline corridor were announced March 1. The agreements fix the value of the 800-mile pipeline, for property tax purposes, at $8 billion through 2020, according to a release from the North Slope Borough.

All pending litigation in Alaska courts regarding TAPS value will be dismissed as part of the deals as well.

Valley bills seek fishing dollars

Gov. Bill Walker’s commercial fisheries tax bill is stalled in committee, but legislators continue digging into the industry for revenue.

Two bills, sponsored by legislators from the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, would impose new taxes on either the entire industry or the longliners and trawlers in the federal and state fisheries.

HB 358, sponsored by Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake, and Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, would require non-salmon and non-halibut trawlers and longliners to pay a tax on halibut and salmon bycatch.

Gov’s bill would double strict liability commercial fines

Fishermen worry that Gov. Bill Walker’s industry taxes hikes may fall on them alone as a litany of fish bills stacks up.

The Senate Resources Committee heard SB 164 on Feb. 22, also from Walker’s office. The complex bill concerns hunting and fishing permits – specifically, how ADFG can discourage wildlife violations while making extra money off them. The bill includes measures to increase commercial fines and recoup money lost in the recreation hunting and fishing licensing process. It will have a second hearing March 3.

Alaska judge tosses lawmaker challenge to Medicaid expansion

A state court judge in Alaska on Tuesday upheld Gov. Bill Walker’s decision to expand Medicaid without legislative approval, finding that the federal Social Security Act requires Medicaid expansion.

Superior Court Judge Frank Pfiffner dismissed a challenge to Walker’s authority by the Legislative Council, which is comprised of state House and Senate lawmakers. That decision can be appealed.

Movers and Shakers 3/06/16

Shawn Uschmann has been named director of External Affairs for AT&T Alaska. Uschmann will spearhead AT&T’s legislative and community affairs initiatives throughout the state and assist with new technology deployment and infrastructure investment. Prior to his new role, Uschmann served as the AT&T sales director in Alaska, where he worked with state, federal, and enterprise business customers. Uschmann attend the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, where he studied economics. He will be based at AT&T’s Anchorage office.

Walker orders mariculture task force

Gov. Bill Walker issued an administrative order on Feb. 29 establishing a mariculture task force for shellfish and sea plants.

Walker’s order responds to both economic and ecological concerns. The release touts the potential economic benefits to coastal communities and the Alaska fishing industry. Further, as ocean acidification continues to impact shellfish, Walker said the stocks need all the help they can get in recovering.

Trustees hear plans for Fund

The plans before the Legislature to use the Permanent Fund’s investment returns to pay for government have much in common, while their differences exemplify the priorities of their sponsors. The plan that is ultimately chosen will go a long way toward shaping the relationship Alaskans have with their state government.

Fuel tax bill moves with industry support

Gov. Bill Walker’s bill to increase state fuel taxes has support from some industry groups it would directly impact.

It is also the only tax bill amongst a suite of revenue proposals by the administration to help close the $3.5 billion-plus budget deficit to have moved out of a single committee so far.

The Senate Transportation Committee passed the bill onto the Finance Committee last week with lukewarm support on a 3-2 vote.

Committee chair refuses to advance gov’s fisheries tax hike

Commercial fisheries may see taxes increase, but only if other resource industries do, too.

Under a budgetary thundercloud, Gov. Bill Walker is trying to squeeze funding from any source. A commercial fisheries tax bump, part of nine such bills in the Legislature, has slowed to a crawl in committee as fishermen decry it.

Fishermen, and House Fisheries Committee chair Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, fear Walker’s tax plan could disproportionately pinpoint the commercial fishing industry while other resource taxes die.

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