One thing that Governor Mike Dunleavy did not try to grab back in his budget was fish taxes from coastal communities.
Instead of splitting fish landing and business taxes 50/50, as has been done for decades, Dunleavy proposed taking all of the tax dollars for state coffers. That would remove $28 million from the bottom lines of Alaska coastal communities for the most recent year and the backlash was fierce.
Representative Louise Stutes, whose district includes Kodiak, Cordova, Yakutat and several others, says the fish tax revenues appear safe.
“It’s general fund revenue and that revenue has been appropriated to the appropriate communities. What we can tell right now is it slipped by unscathed because it appears he did not veto that revenue to the rural communities, or the communities that generate the dollars. So it looks like we’re good to go there.”
Also good to go is the pink salmon disaster relief funds stemming from the 2016 fishery failure. Congress ok’d $56 million for Alaska fishermen, processors and communities in Kodiak, Prince William Sound and Lower Cook Inlet.
“The money that goes to crewman will be distributed through skippers and the money that goes to processors, they will be responsible for distributing it to their processing workers. There are feeling that the monies should be available to start being disbursed in a couple weeks.”
The money has been cut loose to the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission which has a record of who fished for pinks as well as crewmen licenses. The only hold up, Stutes says, is with the $2.4 million earmarked for municipalities –
“The money that goes to municipalities has not been released because there are still some fine details that still have to be worked out. But they did not want to hold up the fishermen’s money anymore.”
Fishermen will share $32 million in relief funds and $17.7 million goes to Alaska processors.
Speaking of dollars, the commercial fisheries division faces a nearly one million dollar cut but fishery managers are under a gag order by Governor Dunleavy to talk about impacts. Representative Stutes says she can relate –
“Welcome to our world. As a legislator, we can’t get answers. We can’t speak to department heads. We get no response. We are required to go through the legislative liaison. I have never seen such a lack of communication between any department or between the legislature and the executive branch.”
Stutes said she is encouraged that more Alaskans are paying attention and speaking out.
“Yes, and it’s a beautiful thing because they underestimate their own voice. We need to hear from Alaskans from all over.”