Tag Archives: governor sean parnell

Parnell’s plan to delay gas taxes also delays pipeline. Walker calls it all ‘maddening.’

To the surprise of some, and maybe the amusement of others, Gov. Sean Parnell announced on Tuesday that he’s not planning to introduce natural gas tax legislation to be considered in the upcoming legislative session. Currently, natural gas is taxed at roughly the same rate as is oil, but it’s only worth a fraction of what oil is.

Parnell says he’s not doing so because the companies that have the lease rights to the natural gas, and who would build the line that would carry the gas from the North Slope to tidewater, haven’t met all of the benchmarks he set out for them in his 2013 state of the state address.

Apparently, Parnell’s refusal to introduce gas taxes signals some sort of punishment. What kind of punishment, however, is unclear. What is clear is that the world is awash in natural gas, and other projects —  potentially more profitable projects —  await the companies.

Another thing that’s clear: Parnell’s announcement signals another delay in the decades-long dream of getting a large diameter natural gas pipeline.

Bill Walker, who is running as an independent candidate for governor, had a visceral reaction to Parnell’s statement. He said that Parnell is just playing into the hands of the producers. “It’s perfect for them,” Walker said. He has been an advocate for an LNG project for more than a quarter of a century, and has long advocated that the state get tough on the companies by either building the line itself or negotiating with the companies that are willing to do it.

“Parnell is trying to get tough. He’s trying to be a negotiator. But they’re just laughing at us,” Walker said. “They’re just on the floor rolling.” He said that the producers want the delay so that they can work on other projects and wait out Alaska as oil production declines, as the state’s coffers shrink, and as the state becomes increasingly desperate and increasingly willing to negotiate.

Walker ran for governor in 2010. He came in second place in the Republican primary, winning more than 33 percent of the vote on a campaign primarily advocating the construction of a gas pipeline project.

Since the 1970s, Alaska has tried to entice, and at various times demand, that the lease holders of the vast reserves of natural gas on the North Slope build a pipeline to get the gas to market.

The market for natural gas is a fickle one, however, say nothing of Alaska’s political climate. And throughout the years, every time it looked like it might actually begin to materialize, the market either crashes, or the political winds change, or a governor tries to flex his or her muscles and punish the companies, which happen to be the among the largest, most powerful, private companies in the world.

“It’s maddening,” Walker said, expressing a sentiment shared by many who have followed the long, illusive gas line story.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


State bigwigs slated for higher paychecks

18737767_mGov. Sean Parnell makes $145,000 a year. The Alaska State Compensation Commission this week has recommended Parnell’s compensation be increased almost $6,000 to $150,872.

Governors across the country are paid on average $133,348 according to the Council of State Governments. In 2013, governors in Idaho, Indiana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Tennessee got raises. The average raise was $4,115.

The highest paid governor is in Pennsylvania and the lowest in Maine, being paid respectively $187,256 and $70,000.

The State Compensation Commission also recommended that the lieutenant governor’s salary be increased from $115,000 to $119,657. Salaries for lieutenant governors across the country range from a low of $30,400 in Idaho, to a high of $153,907 in Pennsylvania. Many other states, including those, also have secretaries of state.

The largest increases recommended are for cabinet members who are the commissioners that serve as the principal department heads in state government. Commissioners are currently paid $136,350. That would increase almost $10,000 to $146,142.

The recommendations are slated to take effect in the new fiscal year on July 1 unless the Legislature passes a bill denying the recommended increases within 60 days of their submission in the 2014 legislative session.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com 


What’s Parnell hiding in that secret Medicaid report?

In Sunday’s Anchorage Daily News, Rich Mauer wrote again about the report commissioned by the state on Medicaid expansion that Gov. Sean Parnell’s administration has for months refused to release. Their refusal is based on “deliberative process,” a catchall phrase, apparently, used by the administration to encompass anything that they’re thinking about.

Parnell hasn’t yet decided whether or not he’s going to accept federal money to expand Medicaid, a linchpin of ObamaCare. He claims to be looking out for the state’s best fiscal interest.

It should be noted here that since Parnell took over, the state’s share of the budget has increased by 55 percent and government employment has increased by 3.9 percent. A not unsubstantial part of that increase is due to rising health care costs, for which a large portion of state workers, including state legislators and those in the executive office, pay nothing in monthly premiums.

Like other Republican governors across the country, Parnell’s likely getting pressure from groups opposed to the law, including the anti-tax group, the Club For Growth, which heavily supported him during his 2008 run against Rep. Don Young.

However, As Mauer points out, there are other ways of getting information about the effects of Medicaid expansion. Through various sources, this is what is known, according to the ADN:

• 41,500 uninsured Alaska residents, including 15,700 Alaska Natives, would become eligible for Medicaid if the expansion is approved (ANTHC).

• Alaska’s statewide mortality rate would decline significantly — one prevented death per year for each 176 newly covered adults (ANTHC).

• About 3,500 new jobs would be created by 2017 through expansion (ANTHC).

• Between 2014 and 2020, the state would spend $90.7 million on expansion, while receiving $1.1 billion federal funds. Savings in other programs would offset the state contribution by at least $67.3 million. Over the first five years, the offsets would actually be greater than the expenditures on Medicaid (ANTHC).

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com 

Wielechowski wants state Medicaid report released. Says he’ll go to court if necessary.

Gov. Sean Parnell’s administration has for six months declined to make public a report that the state paid for to analyze the effect Medicaid expansion would have on the state. The Department of Health and Social Services paid $80,000 to the Lewin Group, a consulting firm based in Virginia, to write the report. It’s been completed since April, but DHSS won’t release the report until the agency analyzes it.

Alaska state Sen. Bill Wielechowski recently requested the report from DHSS. He was denied. He’s appealing that decision. If he doesn’t receive it, he’ll take it to court, he said.

Wielechowski was told that the report will be made public “once DHSS has completed its analysis and submitted its recommendations to the governor.” Others, including this reporter, have requested the report and have received the same response.

Parnell has not made clear whether or not he would accept funding from the federal government in order to expand Medicaid, a state program that pitches in for health insurance for low income Alaskans and that receives matching federal funds. The report, presumably, will have some impact on Parnell’s decision.

As part of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government has offered up to 90 percent of the money to expand the program. The Lewin Group has completed a similar study for New Hampshire. It found that although not accepting the funds would reduce state Medicaid spending, it would reduce the number of uninsured in the state, and increase federal revenues by $1.8 to $2.7 billion in New Hampshire between 2014 and 2020.

A separate report commissioned by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium estimated that if the state accepts expansion, 41,500 uninsured Alaskans will become eligible for Medicaid in 2014 and bring an estimated $1.1 billion in new federal revenue to the state over the next seven years,.

Parnell has said that he’ll make his decision on whether or not to expand the program when he presents his budget at the end of the year.

DHSS did not say when it would release the report. According to the Alaska’s Public Records Act, public records need to be released no later than 10 days after requesting them. Not all records are public, however. Some can remain private because they are considered “deliberative” and contain “opinions, recommendations, or advice about policy.”

Legislative lawyers told Wielechowski that the report is not a deliberative document because it contains no advice about policy.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com