This week for the Legislature: Taxes, court case and Murkowski

JUNEAU — A Senate committee is set to take up several of Gov. Bill Walker’s tax bills during the coming week, including a proposal to re-institute a personal state income tax. The man at the center of a U.S. Supreme Court case about state-owned lands is scheduled to appear before a legislative panel. And Alaska’s senior U.S. senator is slated to deliver her annual address to state lawmakers.

Here are a few things to know about in the Alaska Legislature for the coming week:

Tax bills

The Senate Labor and Commerce Committee plans to take up four of the tax bills proposed by Walker to help address the state’s budget deficit, including the income tax bill. Alaska hasn’t had a personal income tax since lawmakers voted to repeal it in 1980.

The committee plans to meet twice Tuesday and Thursday, with bill hearings during the afternoon and public comment in the evening. The panel plans to focus on the alcohol and tobacco tax bills Tuesday and cruise-ship passenger taxes and the income tax on Thursday.

The administration is proposing a doubling of tax rates on alcoholic beverages, a tax increase of $1-a-pack on cigarettes and creating a tax on electronic cigarettes. The cruise ship bill would repeal a tax reduction for local levies. The proposed income tax would be 6 percent of your federal tax liability, or the amount in taxes you pay the federal government.

Meanwhile, the House Finance Committee during the week plans to hear the centerpiece of Walker’s budget plan — his proposal for using Alaska Permanent Fund earnings — along with bills from state lawmakers that take a different approach to that issue.

Federal authority

On Wednesday, the Senate Resources Committee plans to hear from John Sturgeon, the Alaska hunter at the center of a case now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 2011, Sturgeon sued the U.S. Interior Department and National Park Service, challenging the park service’s authority to enforce federal regulations on state-owned lands and rivers in national parks in the state. Sturgeon had been approached by park service law enforcement employees several years earlier while repairing his hovercraft on a gravel bar along the Nation River. According to court records, they told him agency regulations prohibited the use of hovercrafts within the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve and gave him a verbal warning. The Nation River runs through the preserve.

Sturgeon has argued that all navigable rivers within national parks in Alaska are state-owned lands and not subject to federal enforcement. Both a federal judge and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have sided with the park service.

The state’s congressional delegation filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on Sturgeon’s behalf. The state also has supported his position.

 

Murkowski address

Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski is scheduled to address a joint session of the Legislature on Wednesday. Alaska’s U.S. senators address state lawmakers annually.

Murkowski chairs the U.S. Senate energy committee. She is seeking re-election this year.

More in News

The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Aurora Forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of Feb. 5

Chunks of ice break off the Perito Moreno Glacier, in Lake Argentina, at Los Glaciares National Park, near El Calafate, in Argentina's Patagonia region, March 10, 2016. As glaciers melt and pour massive amounts of water into nearby lakes, 15 million people across the globe live under the threat of a sudden and deadly outburst flood, a new study finds. (AP Photo / Francisco Munoz)
Study: 15 million people live under threat of glacial floods

More than half of those are in just four countries: India, Pakistan, Peru and China.

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File 
A porcupine dines in mid-August near the Mendnehall Glacier.
On the Trails: Putting a finer point on porcupines

Plants such as roses and devil’s club aren’t the only prickly ones…

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan addresses a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature in the House chambers on Tuesday. The Republican senator, appearing on the same day as Democratic President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech (and thus absent from it), criticized the administration on issues ranging from drugs to opposing resource development in Alaska. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Sullivan applauds, denounces feds in speech to Legislature

Senator praises ferry funds and monitoring of China’s balloon, fears Biden limiting oil project.

Members of the Juneau Police Department pose for a group photo during the annual JPD awards ceremony on Monday. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
JPD honors officers in annual award ceremony

The late Chief Pat Wellington presented with legislative memoriam.

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire 
Edward Richards, left, a high school student in the Sitka School District, talks about the lack of mental health services in Alaska’s public schools as part of the testimony also offered by district Superintendent Frank Hauser, center, and student Felix Myers during a Senate Education Meeting on Monday at the Alaska State Capitol. The committee is proposing a 17% increase in the state’s school funding formula, which was remained essentially flat since 2017.
School’s in at the Capitol

Students and education leaders from around state make case for more classroom cash.

Folks at the Alaska State Capitol openly admit to plenty of fish tales, but to a large degree in ways intended to benefit residents and sometimes even the fish. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
The bizarre bills other state legislatures are considering

Alaska’s Legislature isn’t mulling the headline-grabbers some statehouses have in the works.

Most Read