As predicted, we are back in Juneau and gavel-in was Saturday, Oct. 24. When the governor compelled the Legislature to meet again, it was to address three subjects.
First, passage of legislation lifting the tax holiday on real property leased from the state containing threshold volumes of gas in order to ensure that producers are incentivized to commit their gas to Alaska liquid natural gas, or to make gas available for purchase if Alaska LNG does not proceed with all current project participants on previously established timelines. In a good-faith effort to work with potential producers, the governor pulled this legislation at the last minute on the promise that the producers will put gas in the line.
Second, $160 million appropriation to pay TransCanada its development costs and terminate its participation in Alaska LNG, so that the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. can take over TransCanada's current equity position in the gas treatment plant and pipeline. We passed a bill for this appropriation on Wednesday, Nov. 4.
Third, appropriations for the state to make cash calls on the plant and pipeline components of Alaska LNG to continue pre-front-end engineering and design work necessary to reach a design decision, and for the other state agencies involved in Alaska LNG to fund the work to continue efforts to negotiate and reach final agreements necessary to reach the decision.
Aside from gasline issues, there are other concerns on my mind that we will be addressing during the regular session beginning in January.
Continued ferry service: On Friday, Oct. 23 I tuned into a teleconference that Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, chairman of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Transportation and Public Facilities, held in Sitka to address the future of the AMHS. I am hoping to facilitate a similar teleconference in Kodiak in the near future.
Keeping rural schools open: I believe in the importance of keeping rural schools open. Rural schools allow families to stay together and help small communities to oversee the education of their future citizens.
Budget: It’s a hard act to balance the budget while still maintaining essential state services. I will advocate for continued services that serve our region, while at the same time taking into consideration the current fiscal crisis and acknowledging the fact that we must further reduce spending.
On a personal note, I’d like to thank the many constituents who have expressed concerns about my health as of late. I have an inoperable tumor in my chest that was blocking blood flow. However, it is totally curable via chemotherapy. I am more than halfway through the treatments and have been tolerating them extremely well. I am happy to say it appears that by mid-December I will be looking at this episode of my life through the rear view mirror!
Again, I thank you all for the well wishes. If you’d like to get a hold of me I can be reached through the Juneau office at 907-465-2487.