Here is a sampling of editorial opinions from Alaska newspapers:
May 29, 2013
Ketchikan Daily News
Share the Burden
It's important to pay your way. But the feds are asking Alaskans and others living in border states to pay for borders equally important to the whole nation.
The border-crossing fee proposal is included in the Department of Homeland Security's 2014 budget. It is described as a feasibility study to change the federal law against such a fee.
Not only that, the people being asked to pay already are paying more to the feds this year through increased payroll withholdings.
It's as if the Obama administration is living in the wallets and purses of Americans.
This probably doesn't bother interior states much, but it is alarming to border states.
It means pedestrian and motor vehicles would be charged a fee to cross the borders.
It's another blow to economic recovery. The effect will be to limit tourism and trade — shopping, dining, recreational events. It also will add to the cost — at least in parts of Alaska — of socializing across the border.
Trips through Canada — ferrying to Prince Rupert and driving to the Lower 48 — will cost more at a time when the average American is already vacationing closer to home than in decades past, mostly because of the economy. For Alaskans, that isn't too bad; Alaska is a tourism destination.
But it does depend on the tourists coming here for its economic wellbeing.
Then, there are communities like Hider, just 2 miles to Canada and its only highway. The Alaska Marine Highway System stopped ferry service to and from Hider years ago. The only other transportation is small plane. Hider residents drive into Stewart, British Columbia regularly; a fee would need to become a household budget item.
That's not all. Nothing would prevent Canada from following the American example of instituting its own border-crossing fee. That could double the fee, unless the Canadians charge more or less. Then, there are two fees and really no guarantee either country might not come up with yet a third or a fourth for another border-related activity.
The border-crossing fee should be removed from the budget, the money allotted for it should be saved, and the department and the administration should focus on ideas that will improve the economy — not just in border states, but for the whole nation.
May 25, 2013
Capital budget meets many Peninsula needs
Gov. Sean Parnell earlier this week signed off on several bills, including the state's capital budget. We'd like to take a moment to thank our legislative delegation and the governor for working together to bring nearly $60 million in projects to the Kenai Peninsula.
Funding runs the gamut, from money to upgrade the bathrooms at the Soldotna Senior Center to make them ADA compliant, to much larger projects, like a leachate thermal evaporation unit for the Central Peninsula Landfill.
A capital budget has numerous benefits for our community. Economically, construction projects mean good-paying construction jobs, and that money circulates through local businesses.
But a look through the list of projects also reveals another benefit: improved quality of life for residents of and visitors to the Peninsula. Better roads, better buildings, better access to recreation sites — those are things that make our lives better.
Headed into the last legislative session, the governor highlighted his budget priorities to include energy and resources, education, public safety, transportation and infrastructure, and military support. The governor's priorities tend to reflect what many Peninsula residents would like to see from their government, and the projects approved for the Peninsula are representative of those priorities.
We're also pleased to see the Legislature and governor get on the same page with regard to the types of projects to be funded. Too often in recent years, we've seen what we thought were good projects proposed for capital funding, only to see them vetoed without much of an explanation. Or, we've seen legislators pile on projects, with little consideration of whether the projects were necessary and worthwhile.
We avoided that this year, as Parnell didn't veto a single item in the capital budget sent to him by the Legislature.
Certainly, some of the projects funded may not seem like a priority for everyone. And there are projects out there that we'd like to see some funding for, perhaps in a future budget.
But this capital plan is the result of a good communication between the Legislature and the administration, and we're pleased with the results.