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Moved: 4/21/2014 02:23

Latest Alaska news, sports, business and entertainment


Budget work continues on last day of session

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — On the last scheduled day of the legislative session, state lawmakers were still trying to finish writing the capital budget on Sunday.

While the budget is typically one of the last major pieces of legislation in play, the House Finance Committee was waiting to put its final touches on it, pending an agreement on additional education funding.

Co-chairman Bill Stoltze told the committee Sunday afternoon that when a bill rewrite came back before the panel, it would include an additional $10 million for the Susitna-Watana hydro-project, providing a total of $20 million for the dam project.

That's about half of what Gov. Sean Parnell requested for this year and next and $10 million more than the Senate included. Some lawmakers have questioned additional funding for the proposed south-central Alaska mega-project, given the state is also pursuing a major natural gas pipeline project.

The draft bill released late Saturday night included Senate-proposed funding intended to complete the state library, archives and museum building in Juneau and an engineering building at the University of Alaska Anchorage. It also stuck with the Senate's proposed approach for a new $245 million power plant at the University of Alaska Fairbanks — a mix of state funds and $157.5 million in anticipated bond revenue.


Education a sticking point as session nears end

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — State lawmakers were trying to reach an agreement Sunday on a broad-reaching education bill, with the clock winding down on the 90-day session.

Sunday marked the scheduled end of the session, and by late afternoon, Senate Majority Leader John Coghill said House and Senate leadership were still pretty far apart on education. He says lawmakers planned to continue moving other major pieces of legislation, including the operating budget and a bill to advance a major liquefied natural gas project, and see if they could agree on an education funding figure to plug into the capital budget.

The operating budget funds the operations of state government, and the capital budget generally covers infrastructure and other costs.


Legislature passes new approach to pension debt

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The Legislature has approved a new approach to addressing the state's unfunded pension obligation.

The House unanimously agreed to a Senate plan Sunday that would put $2 billion from savings toward the teachers' retirement system and $1 billion toward the public employees' retirement system. The plan calls for payments that are somewhat back-loaded, starting lower, about $345 million in 2016, and slowly building until 2038. Projections call for a final $490 million payment the following year.

The idea was to improve the health of the pension systems while also lowering payment costs in the years ahead considering budget obligations and revenue concerns.


Fairbanks tries to improve water quality

(Information in the following story is from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, HYPERLINK http://www.newsminer.com

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — Fairbanks officials are launching a public-education effort in an effort to reduce water pollution.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports that many residents are apparently unaware that storm drains lead directly into the Chena River or Noyes Slough.

City planning and permitting manager Jackson Fox says Fairbanks is continually trying to educate residents about how their actions can affect local water quality. When the snow melts each spring in Fairbanks, it can wash a lot of nasty stuff down storm drains. That includes antifreeze, oil or transmission fluid that leaked from vehicles during the winter, as well as litter and pet waste.

The city will be circulating a 23-question survey throughout the community this summer. The goal is to try to learn about people's habits as well as educate them. The city did a similar survey six years ago and found that about 50 percent of the roughly 200 people who responded did not know that storm drain runoff flows directly into local streams and ponds.

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