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.

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