JULY NEWSLETTER FROM REPRESENTATIVE GEORGE RAUSCHER
The legislature was called to Juneau on July 27 for a quick special session to vote on the Capital Budget. While we were only in town for less than 24-hours, I am still wondering why we didn’t work on this more earnestly during the voter-approved 90-day session; or for that matter during any of the 90 days we were in either extended, of special session this year.
That is another matter we can discuss in the future.
Thursday’s vote for the passage of a $1.3 billion will create jobs and keep people working. However, it is not without flaws. While only approximately $200 million of the budget is from state funding, used to leverage federal project funding I voted no on the bill for several reasons.
Chief among my reason for a no vote is that the capital budget marked the first time the Alaska Legislature did not appropriate the statutory amount for the Permanent Fund Dividend. Last year the legislature appropriated the full amount and the governor vetoed half. This year the legislature did not follow statute, I cannot support such a clear violation of the law.
I have stated over and over that the PFD is the People’s share of Alaska’s resource wealth and the people of Alaska are entitled to the full benefit from its resources as provided in the state constitution.
The bill took funds appropriated to major project by previous legislatures and funneled it to new projects. All but eliminating the previously funded projects. Among them is the Juneau Access Road, which would have allowed great access by the people of Alaska to the capitol.
While $200 million is the state’s share of the capital budget, the remainder comes from the federal government, or from the people of this state and country who pay taxes. Last time I checked the national debt was around $19 trillion.
It was for these reasons, and others, that I could not support the capital budget. We, Alaska, can’t afford to keep spending at levels beyond our means. We need the government we can afford, not the government we want.
The state of Alaska and Ahtna Inc. have reached a tentative settlement agreement in the lawsuit over public access to Klutina Lake Road across Ahtna land. The settlement can be viewed at www.gov.alaska.gov/klutina-gulkana-settlement. The lawsuit originated in 2008 when Ahtna sued the State alleging actions by the State along the unpaved road constituted a trespass. The State counterclaimed asserting the existence of a public right-of-way under federal Revised Statute 2477. Both parties agreed there is an existing public road, but they disagreed on the width, scope of use and the State’s property interests in the road.
In January of this year, the parties again began settlement discussions through a mediator. The parties worked for the past five months to settle on the details of a proposed agreement. Before the agreement is finalized, the state will be holding a series of public meetings where public comments will be accepted.
Gulkana – Tuesday, August 1, 2017, from 3 – 5 p.m. at the Gulkana Hall, Gulkana, AK (traveling north on Richardson Highway, turn right at the sign for the village after the Gulkana River bridge)
Glennallen – Tuesday, August 1 from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the Alaska Bible College-Murdock Campus Center at 200 College Road
Anchorage – Wednesday, August 2 from 6 – 8 p.m. in Room 104 of the Atwood Building, 550 West 7th Avenue
Wasilla – Thursday, August 3 from 6 – 8 p.m. in Meeting Room 1-3, Curtis D. Menard Memorial Sports Center, at 1001 S. Clapp Street
Fairbanks – Monday, August 7, 2017, from 6 – 8 p.m. in the Noel Wien Library auditorium, located at 1215 Cowles Street
Representative Rauscher’s concerns with settlement
Rep. George Rauscher has expressed concerns over the settlement of this case from the moment negotiations began this spring. “My biggest concern is the precedent we are setting in the face of the 600 other RS2477 trails throughout Alaska,” he said. “The public depends on access to much of Alaska by using RS2477 trails and roads, much of which crosses private lands.” RS 2477 is the historic right of way across public lands, not reserved for public uses. In the case of Klutina Lake Road it is a right of way across land that existed before the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 formed Alaska’s native corporations, though the area was traditional Ahtna lands before then. George has been in contact with the office of the Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth since negotiations towards the settlement began, meeting with her and sending letters to express his concerns and gain clarification on the settlement throughout the process.
In addition he has meet with several area user groups including the Alaska Outdoor Council on this matter. Concerns with the proposed settlement:
- The $25,000 payment to Ahtna, without explanation offered
- The requirement that the state pays for improvements, maintenance and signage
- The requirement that the state covers survey costs to designate Ahtna lands
- The precedence of surrendering RS 2477 rights in relations to other native lands
- Continued public access to the area and other parts of the stateTo read letter to Attorney General Lindemuth click here
Why I voted how I did on HB 111: Oil and gas tax legislation
The legislature voted for the passage of House Bill 111, the oil and gas tax bill. I was a no vote, let me explain why.
Simply put, the bill will raise taxes and add costs to the oil industry, a move that will decrease investment and inevitably make it harder for new oil fields to be developed. Like the majority of my legislative colleagues, the producers, and Alaskans, I agree that the state could no longer afford to pay out the “Cashable Tax Credits.” But that is not all the bill does.
When I read the 24-page document, I realized it was against everything I believed in about the State of Alaska being open for business.
Cashable credits needed to go away, the state couldn’t afford them, and the producers were not getting paid. Eliminating this incentive was a tough call, but the right one. But it’s the excess baggage added to the bill that bothered me.
The future of Alaska lies in new fields producing oil and gas, it is hard for them to find investors because of the ever changing tax regime. It appears some in government can’t wait to fleece the private sector on every turn. Not me, business needs reasonable, stable and predictable taxes in order flourish and create jobs. This bill does none of these, and I voted no on HB 111 because of that. Read more….
Matanuska River bank erosion continues to threaten homes and property in the Sutton area and Rep. Rauscher is working with the Mat-Su Borough and the state to find a solutions.
At the request of Rep. Rauscher, Gov. Bill Walker and his staff flew over the area recently to inspect the erosion and determine if the situation elevated to a disaster declaration. While the governor determined a state of emergency was not merited because the erosion is considered a natural shift in the river path, George has not given up.
Last August Governor Walker declared an emergency to address the erosion caused by the Matanuska River in the Butte area, freeing up state and federal funds to address the issue. But the declaration did not include the Sutton area where the river has been threatening homes for many years.
“I am happy to see the Governor and his staff responded to the call for assistance and have examined the threat that looms over the area from erosion,” Rauscher said. “I am ready to work with the Governor and his staff to not only find an immediate solution, but also a long term resolution to this issue in Sutton, and all along the Matanuska River before more homes are lost.”
The Mat-Su Borough has approximately $415,000 of a $2.5 million state grant it received in 2013 to addressing flooding throughout the borough. Assistant Borough manager George Hayes indicated that they are working with FEMA and US Army Corps of Engineers to find a long term solution or to fund potential property buyouts in the area.
Bringing affordable energy to the Glennallen area and the rest of the Copper Valley Electric Association was the topic of discussion when Rep. Rauscher attended a meeting July 21 at the Ahtna Building in Glennallen.
The idea of constructing a utility inter-tie with Matanuska Electric Association from Glennallen to Sutton was on the table once again. Originally proposed in the late 80’s, the idea has resurfaced in an effort to reduce the cost of power to the Rural Area. The plans were halted after property owners along the route objected.
Rural Alaska is paying high costs for power, and the electric utility companies (Golden Valley Electric, Matanuska Electric, and Copper Valley Electric) Ahtna, Alaska Energy Association, along with other energy groups all met in Glennallen to discuss this topic once again.
With most of the Right of Way already purchased and international safety concerns along with the buildup of the military bases (Fort Greely) the group plans to research the costs and feasibility of connecting the power grid in the area and around the state.
I have been in touch with the Department of Transportation and am happy to report that the issues are being addressed.
Frost heaves and potholes caused by thawing on the permafrost under the road had caused several hazards in the road leading to the lake. John Hoffman, DOT Tazlina Maintenance Manager reports that this thawing of the ice lens under the road is typical and that his crews were dispatched and have made repairs to patch seven areas.
We also spoke about the cost for future work to be done on the road for future reference as I head back to Juneau. DOT Engineering is working to providing the information about the costs for such upgrades, and which method would be the most cost effective. History shows that gravel has been easiest and less costly to maintain, chip-seal is another option, and new pavement obviously would be ideal but is likely the most costly.
I also heard of a level of concern regarding the crossing at Dinty Lake and the Lake Louise, were a culvert had been installed and gravel added to facilitate access to popular hunting areas without submerging a vehicle up to the windows to get across.
However, state agencies have asked that the culvert be removed, and community complied. Despite there is some concern in the area about the impacts that access by hunters will have this fall. I plan to work with DOT, Fish and Game and DNR to find a solution that is a win/win for all parties.