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)

Lots Yet To Be Done In Session, Stedman Says

By SHANNON HAUGLAND

Sentinel Staff Writer

The Legislature passed its 90-day mark on Sunday, but the end isn’t in sight for most of the biggest issues on the table, said Sen. Bert Stedman.

“I would expect us to continue this session,” Stedman said Friday. “We still have a couple of weeks’ worth of work or more.”

Legislators kept working through 3 a.m. today, and were back at it this morning.

Stedman, who represents Sitka, Ketchikan and other Southeast communities, said the Legislature still needs to look at revising the oil credit structure, Permanent Fund legislation and “dealing with the fiscal matter, which is daunting, to say the least.”

To start closing the current $4 billion gap, Gov. Bill Walker has proposed legislation to reform Alaska’s oil tax credit subsidy program, restructure the Permanent Fund and implement a personal income tax.

But Stedman said he believes the oil tax structure should be dealt with first.

“I think it’s difficult to ask people to give up their Permanent Fund or ask people to restructure the Permanent Fund to redirect to the general fund, with the deal with the oil tax structure unchanged,” he said. “It needs to be dealt with. We’re in a position of negative severance tax. ... We’re paying a severance tax instead of collecting it through the reimbursement of credit, and that doesn’t work.”
He said the expectations of the benefits of Senate Bill 21 – more production, more jobs and a 35 percent tax rate – have not come to pass, and it’s costing the state. Stedman was one of the most vocal opponents of Senate Bill 21 when it was passed by the Legislature.

Stedman said some important bills are working their way through Senate Finance and House Rules committees and have not yet come to the floor.

“With all that being said, there are other things we’re continuing to move forward,” he said.

Stedman said he’s looking forward to the ground-breaking on the new Mt. Edgecumbe pool, which may be as early as the end of next month.

The pool financing was part of a statewide bond package passed by the voters several years ago.

Stedman said he’s also watching for progress on the reconstruction of the road at Starrigavan, and the road to Katlian Bay.

Sitka and the other larger communities should expect around a 30 percent cut in their allocation for revenue sharing, which may be converted into a “community assistance” program, Stedman said.

“We’re trying to save the program, so everyone’s going to get a little bit of a haircut, but not shaved completely,” he said.

With the state budget in such dire straits, Sitka and other communities should not expect to see much in the way of capital projects – with the exception of pass-through federal funds. 

“We’re trying to get the pass-through money for the cruise ship (passenger excise) tax,” he said. Because of the current litigation by the industry against Juneau for using excise tax money for an art project, Stedman added, “All of the communities are going to have to tighten their regulations.”

Stedman said he’s keeping a close eye on proposals related to the Permanent Fund.

“I don’t want to drain it for future generations in 15 years, with an empty oil field and no Permanent Fund in place,” he said. “Protection of the Permanent Fund is paramount. I’m in favor of a budgetary solution that leaves intact a dividend stream that’s protected for the people. ... There’s no easy answer.”

He also isn’t in favor of solutions that provide no inflation-proofing of the fund.

Stedman said today that the session is going beyond the 90-day target date, and toward the 120 days constitutional length. Some of the legislators are putting their cars on the ferry today, assuming the rest of the session will be moved to Anchorage – in line with what the Railbelt legislators prefer.

“They want to go home,” he said.

But Stedman said he is more preoccupied with the end product, than the end date of the session.

“I’m more concerned with the quality of the work product than when we get done,” he said.

Stedman compared the current budget crisis at the state level with the crisis Sitka faced with the Alaska Pulp Corp. mill closure in 1993.

“Though we’re going to get squeezed, it should be nothing new to people living in Sitka in the 1990s,” he said. “You adjust to economic changes and life goes on.”

Stedman said the situation is serious, and didn’t finish the interview on an optimistic note.

“The state is in a position where it’s financially crippled as far as the eye can see,” he said. “We will be lowering expenditures in the operating budget. You won’t see capital expenditures for at least a half a decade to a decade. We’re being bled out of cash. It makes it very difficult. The state won’t be in a position to help with Blue Lake or anything.” 

He expects Sitka will have a lot to talk about over the next couple of months, as it grapples with balancing its own budget, and a possible property tax increase on the ballot in October.

“This will be an interesting topic over the summer,” he said.

 

Stedman said Southeast should come out of the financial crisis “pretty well,” while Anchorage may be hit harder.

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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

 

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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.

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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: https://bit.ly/3apStpb

 

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20 YEARS AGO
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 ....

50 YEARS AGO
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.

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