The Alaska State Capitol. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

The Alaska State Capitol. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Capitol Live: House Minority angered over Majority’s plan to travel the state for budget talks

Live updates from inside the Capitol.

4:50 p.m.

“If I’m going to go back to my community and they’ll tell me, why do we keep funding the marine highway system. I recognize that when I’m hear I’m speaking for the whole state and because of that I need to find innovative solutions,” says Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage.

A reporter has asked if they will support any sort of lowered dividend to build a budget.

Sullivan-Leonard says she does support a full dividend. She also says she supports having the municipal oil taxes go to the state coffers.

“We all know that something has to change,” says Pruitt. “Whatever that is…the body will make it’s decision, and I can expect the body will add some things back in…we can all feel that in the building.”

A reporter has asked if they think it’s a crisis moment because options are being taken off the table, such as taxes.

“I didn’t see a way that we could continue to sustain the growth that we’ve had… the people that came before us didn’t put a bunch of money aside so that we could just eat through it.”

Rasmussen says there’s so many sectors that Alaska is not touching or talking about, and it shouldn’t be the same conversations that they’ve already had.

— Mollie Barnes

4:37 p.m.

Sullivan-Leonard says she was not invited to go to these House budget listening sessions, but if she was she wouldn’t go.

“We have work to do here,” she says.

Rep. Sara Rasmussen, R-Anchorage, also released a press release related to the marine highway system.

“While the House Transportation Committee sits through yet another session of testimony this afternoon on the Alaska Marine Highway System, the rest of our state’s transportation and infrastructure issues continue to be neglected,” said Rasmussen a member of the House Transportation Committee. “While I understand the importance of the Marine Highway System and generally support efforts to continue ferry service in a cost-effective manner, there are other important issues that warrant our immediate consideration. Our state owns and operates 239 airports, including Ted Stevens International Airport. The Port of Alaska, which imports 3.5 million tons of food and goods Alaskans need annually, is crumbling and needs repairs. We have thousands of miles of highways and railroads that need to be maintained. These issues are critically important to our ability to grow Alaska’s economy and they’re being completely ignored. Rather than spending hours fixated on one government system, we should be focusing on the whole – investing our time and resources in modern infrastructure through projects like the Juneau Access Road – that could fundamentally revolutionize both the economies of Southeast Alaska and the rest of the state.”

“I think the conversation around marine highways needs to shift to solutions,” Rasmussen said to reporters.

— Mollie Barnes

4:33 p.m.

The House Minority is holding a press conference because they felt there was an urgency with what’s happening with a House Majority.

“After waiting nearly a month to organize the House, the fact that the Democrat-led House Majority now plans to spend tens of thousands of state dollars to fly members around the state campaigning for an increase in government spending in the middle of legislative session is astounding to me,” said Rep. Colleen Sullivan-Leonard, R-Wasilla, in a press release. “This is a great depiction of why the people of Alaska do not trust in their legislature – we’re in the middle of a huge budget deficit and House leadership wants to spend money that we do not have to try and advocate for spending even more money that we do not have. Other departments in the government are cutting their state travel budgets down by 50 percent or more – they didn’t give that money to the Democrat-led House Majority to spend for them.”

“Additionally,” Sullivan-Leonard said, “it’s regrettable that members of the House Finance Committee were not made aware of these plans prior to their being made public by a blogger. Members of the House and Senate just spent weeks organizing town halls and caucuses in-district to hear from constituents. Spending precious dollars to peddle political motives in this way is disingenuous and irresponsible.”

“What kind of an example are we setting to do a travel show out across the state when truly it’s not necessary?” Sullivan-Leonard said to reporters in the press conference.

She said they just had all their town hall meetings in the last three weeks. She said this is a “frivolous” act.

— Mollie Barnes

1:57 p.m.

Dunleavy is asked about interest in a gasline in Alaska.

“Right now, there’s a tremendous amount of gas and we don’t hear of a lot of investment at this time moving into large-scale gas projects,” Dunleavy says.

— Alex McCarthy

1:55 p.m.

Corri Feige, commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources, says several companies have said there could be “significant” investments in the North Slope in the next three or five years.

“We have heard a lot of excitement and enthusiasm” about new explorations on the North Slope. She also mentions there’s interest in viscous oil, of which there is a great deal on the North Slope.

— Alex McCarthy

1:53 p.m.

Dunleavy says he’s finding that a number of firms are interested in the state and “Alaska’s back on the radar screen.”

“Alaska can play a role in balancing the portfolio of some of these companies,” Dunleavy says.

— Alex McCarthy

Gov. Mike Dunleavy. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

1:50 p.m.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy is on a call to reporters from Houston, where he’s at the CERA Week conference. The conference brings many of the biggest names in the oil and gas industry together.

“I’d have to say it’s probably one of the best conferences I’ve attended,” Dunleavy says.

Read more about his trip here.

— Alex McCarthy

1:10 p.m.

Looks like Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage, dropped by Juneau’s courthouse today to see the therapeutic court in action. Read more about Juneau Therapeutic Court here.

— Alex McCarthy

12:45 p.m.

The cuisine of the year is set to be Georgian cuisine, she says. The country, not the state.

“Wine is still in, but there’s some new players,” she says, adding that South African wine is hot.

She says orange wines will be popular this year.

“This wine isn’t new,” she says. “It dates back centuries, but people are discovering that they like the taste of it. ALDI has started supplying it.”

Milkshake IPA beers and Mezcal are other alcohol trends for this year.

Breakfast is also hugely trending she says. People eat out for breakfast five times more frequently than 10 years ago.

Social Media Management is the top start-up idea she lists.

Finally she’s looking at outdoor recreation. It sustains four times the number of jobs in Alaska than oil, gas, mining and logging combined.

“This industry also brings in $7.3 billion in consumer spending annually. So it’s going to help us in Alaska if we can keep on thinking of new ways to diversify our economy in Alaska.”

— Mollie Barnes

12:35 p.m.

She says people who remodel their homes on their own are more likely to be millennials. She said this group of people spend more than 60 hours a week on digital devices, including phones and televisions.

“I saw a post on Facebook where a single mom built her entire house just from videos on YouTube,” Adams says.

She says remodeling activity is not projected to slow down because new construction is harder to find.

Kitchen remodels are the most popular of all home remodels, she says. Many people are looking for natural tones and technology that can assist with function.

“There’s also a tendency to bring the outdoors inside,” Adams says.

The wedding industry is a $72 billion industry, Adams says, adding that grooms fashion is coming more into play.

Anti-aging and the skincare industry is another big one, Adams says.

“It is projected to hit $216 billion by 2021,” Adams says. Men’s skincare is also a growing industry, and natural products are trending.

Her new favorite industry trend is naptime.

“The work day is changing rapidly,” Adams says. “Nap services are being referred to as wellness clubs, and some offer cafes and meditation.”

Nap pods in New York City can rent for $14 an hour, she says.

Pantone’s color of the year is “Living Coral” and she says that it’s a welcoming color that encourages light hearted activity.

There is a new “homebody” economy she says. “For millennials staying in is the new going out,” she says. Millennials spend 70 percent more time at home than the general population.

There’s an entire economy being built around millennial homebodies, she says, for example streaming services and food delivery services.

— Mollie Barnes

Jennifer Adams, executive director of the Alaska Small Business Development Council, speaks about hot business trends to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce during its weekly luncheon at the Hangar Ballroom on Thursday, March 14, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Jennifer Adams, executive director of the Alaska Small Business Development Council, speaks about hot business trends to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce during its weekly luncheon at the Hangar Ballroom on Thursday, March 14, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

12:25 p.m.

Clients of the SBDC created 624 new jobs in 2018. There were 146 businesses started in 2018 through the SBDC, and 1,278 clients sought assistance that year.

“There were almost 72,000 small businesses in Alaska in 2018,” Adams says. “Small businesses are often able to provide a wage that’s above the Alaska median wage.”

Some hot business trends she lists:

  • More goods are being sold online
  • 67 percent of the buyer’s journey is now done online
  • Everyone shops online, but age, gender, geography and booze are factors
  • Americans spend $308 billion online while drinking
  • Men spent 28 percent more time online than women
  • Millennials are the biggest spenders online, even though they have less to spend

“Over 40 percent of millennials are parents now, and will soon become the largest living generation in America,” Adams says. “There’s a growing need for businesses to pivot their tactics to that generation.”

She says people can’t ignore the baby boomers. They represent 42 percent of economic activity in the U.S, and people over 50 hold 83 percent of U.S. wealth.

Now she’s talking about industry trends. Home trends are still influenced by Scandinavian styles, she says.

— Mollie Barnes

12:15 p.m.

Jennifer Adams Juneau Director of Alaska Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is speaking to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce on “Hot Business Trends” at the Hangar on the Wharf downtown.

She’s a small business owner, and has owned a consulting business since 2013.

The SBDC has been operating in Alaska since 1986, and has six regional centers across the state. The Ketchikan center is not included in that number because it’s been vacant for over a year.

The SBDC is mostly federally funded, Adams says.

“We help clients prepare for loans, we have super robust financial forecasting tools,” she says. The SBDC offers tools for any stage of business for small businesses.

— Mollie Barnes

9:05 a.m.

Yesterday, Senate Democrats sent a letter to Gov. Mike Dunleavy asking him for a long-term fiscal plan. The fact that Dunleavy has not yet released one, they say, is in violation of Alaska Statute 37.07.020(b) of the Executive Budget Act.

Those who signed the letter include Sens. Tom Begich, Elvi Gray-Jackson, Scott Kawasaki, Jesse Kiehl, Donny Olson and Bill Wielechowski.

They wrote the following: “Because the fiscal plan must be generated timely, ‘to enable the legislature to rely on [it] in understanding, evaluating, and resolving issues of state budgeting,’ the FY 2020 fiscal plan should have been provided to the legislature long ago during this legislative session — or at the latest, by the time you submitted your amended budget.”

You can read the letter here:

— Alex McCarthy

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