Alaska Editorials

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Here is a sampling of editorial opinions from Alaska newspapers:

April 3, 2014

Kethchikan Daily News: OK wild salmon day

Standing above Mission Street is an archway welcoming visitors to Ketchikan, the Salmon Capital of the World.

If that proclamation is correct — and it most certainly is — then Alaska itself must be the salmon capital of the universe.

Seriously. Can any other place claim such interaction with salmon?

No — Alaska's deep and historical reliance upon this fabulous fish for sustenance, recreation and economic activity is unmatched, anywhere.

That's one reason why officially designating an Alaska Wild Salmon Day makes perfect sense.

"Arguably, no other fish plays such a prominent role in Alaskans' lives," said Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, who introduced the state legislation to annually name Aug. 10 as Alaska Wild Salmon Day.

The House of Representatives unanimously approved House Bill 128 on Tuesday. It's now being considered by the Alaska Senate, which, in our opinion, should approve it by a similar margin.

Not only would a wild salmon day recognize the roles salmon have in Alaska life, it would provide a great hook for marketing Alaska and its salmon seafood.

Edgmon said he consulted with Alaska tourism, seafood marketing and restaurant industries, in addition to Alaska Airlines, before introducing HB128.

"They all agreed that Alaska Wild Salmon Day can create endless opportunities to make salmon lovers of countless visitors to Alaska," Edgmon said.

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute has written in support of HB128, as have the United Fishermen of Alaska and the Alaska Trollers Association.

"What could be more natural (if not down-right wild) than for Alaska, the biggest salmon state-nation on the planet, to set aside one special day each year to honor the fabulous genus Oncorhynchus?" wrote ATA Executive Director Dale Kelley.

What, indeed.

In these days of budget uncertainty and difficult decisions on many fronts, Alaska's Legislature has few opportunities to dwell, however briefly, on the fine aspects of our state.

We encourage the Senate to take that opportunity and mirror the House action on HB128, and we look forward to celebrating Alaska Wild Salmon Day on Aug. 10, in the Salmon Capital of the World.


April 4, 2015

Peninsula Clarion: Legislature's decimation of school funding is shortsighted

School districts around the state continue to take it on the chin as the Legislature slashes its way through the operating budget.

The Senate passed its version of the operating budget Friday, which included a 4.1 percent reduction in the base student allocation — a $47.5 million cut to school funding.

On top of that, the Senate version of the budget strips forward-funding of education for 2017. That comes on top of Gov. Bill Walker's proposal to cut $32 million in one-time funding for next year that was approved by the Legislature last year. And in a separate measure, the Legislature has been working overtime to keep from having to reimburse municipalities for new school improvement and construction bonds.

We understand that the state must make cuts somewhere, but cutting funding for an already piecemeal education budget seems remarkably shortsighted.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District already is facing a multi-million dollar deficit, and the latest round of cuts certainly exacerbates the situation. According to a Friday afternoon news release, the district is facing a revenue reduction of nearly $8 million — a loss of $6.5 million in state funding, and, because the local education contribution is tied to a formula based on the state contribution, a reduction of nearly $1.5 million in potential borough funding.

More than 80 percent of the school district budget is staff salary and benefits, which means the only way to make up the difference is by cutting staff — up to 100 positions, according to the district's release.

Senate Finance Committee Co-Chair Pete Kelly said the Senate "did what was in the best interests of the state of Alaska."

It's hard to see how gutting school districts is in any way in the interest of Alaskans.

Most school districts around the state already struggle with funding from year to year, and head to Juneau every session, hat in hand, to lobby for additional funds.

Lawmakers in the past have pledged to look at education funding, but so far that has proven an empty promise as the Legislature instead passes short-term fixes, rather than addressing a long-term, consistent funding plan essential for school districts to succeed. This series of Band-Aids has barely been adequate to stop the bleeding; if lawmakers are set on ripping those Band-Aids off, as they appear to be this session, they ought to at least have a first-aid kit on hand to limit the blood loss.

Because the Senate version of the operating budget differs from what the House passed, the measure will likely go to a conference committee. Funding for education is likely to be used as political leverage as the Legislature will need to approve drawing on state savings to fund government in the coming year. We hope that when that vote comes to the floor, lawmakers will acknowledge that adequate funding of education — in addition to being a constitutional obligation — is worth the investment.

Failure to do so simply mortgages our state's future.

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