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Try Your Hand at Balancing Alaska’s Budget

PRESENTATIONS, LINKS, AND RESOURCES
Session 5 Debrief Form (doc)
Economic Considerations with Revenue Options (PDF), Dan Robinson
Fiscal and Revenue Options (PDF), Commissioner Randy Hoffbeck
Updated! 6/7 Revenue and Expenditure Model (xlsx)
The Conversation Overiew (PDF), Bill Dann
Alaska Budget Overview (PDF), OMB Director Pat Pitney
An Introduction To Alaska Fiscal Facts and Choices (PDF), Gunnar Knapp
Potential Revenue and Fiscal Options (PDF), Revenue White Paper
Updated! 6/11 Participant List (PDF)
Conversation Schedule (PDF)
Legislative Fiscal Analyst’s Overview of the Governor’s FY2016 Request (PDF)
Lunch & Learn: Budget Overview by David Teal 3/26/15 (External Link)

via Alaska Governor Bill Walker.

Dear Alaskan Readers, I hope you will share this post far and wide. As part of Governor Walker’s Alaska’s Future’s initiative, anyone can download the Revenue and Expenditure Model spreadsheet and play around with different options in Alaska’s budget to see if you can keep the state from running out of money before 2030.

The spreadsheet allows you to make assumptions about the average price of oil, make choices about taxes and PFD earnings, and reduce spending. My only complaint is that the max cut you can give an agency is 30%. I’d prefer an option that allowed you to eliminate entire agencies if you wanted. Division level zero outs would be even better.

I tried my own hand at this. I assumed $60/barrel oil. I cut every department by 30% and tried a variety of PFD limits and taxes. I couldn’t make it work. A friend of my assumed $200/barrel oil and she couldn’t get it to work – though she didn’t share what else she did.

Can YOU keep Alaska solvent through 2030? If so, please show your work. Our state needs all the help it can get.

(Huffington Post) Photos Show Once-Beautiful Soviet Space Shuttles In Apparently Abandoned Kazakhstan Hangar

The two spaceships are reportedly products of the Soviet Union’s Buran program, which ran from 1974 to 1993. In 1988, the program succeeded in sending an unmanned Buran shuttle in two orbits around the earth in under four hours. That shuttle, called the OK-1K1, was destroyed in 2002 when the roof of the Baikonur Cosmodrome hangar where it was being stored collapsed.

Following the disaster, the OK-1K1’s sister space shuttle (officially called OK-1K2 but nicknamed “Little Bird”) was moved to a different hangar at the launch facility, where it still sits today, according to Ars Technica.

via Photos Show Once-Beautiful Soviet Space Shuttles In Apparently Abandoned Kazakhstan Hangar.

From the “Where are they now?” I remember hearing about the Buran program when I was in college. Buran is a Russian word for blizzards, which was a reflection of how hardy the Soviet Union wanted its shuttles to be. So reliable they could be launched in snow storms. But that never was. I’m actually kind of sorry about that. I’d like to see SOME human nation come up with cheap and reliable space travel. Now my money (metaphorically speaking) is on SpaceX.

Gunnar Knapp, An Introduction to Alaska Fiscal Facts and Choices (6.5…

via Gunnar Knapp, An Introduction to Alaska Fiscal Facts and Choices (6.5….

A 44 slide presentation by Gunnar Knapp of Alaska’s Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER). To me, this is a very clear introduction to our long term budget problems and possible ways to start solving them.

I’d like to point out that if your preferred solution to Alaska’s current budget crisis is cuts only, then you need to accept the partial government shutdown budget. Governor Walker has funded government operations to the extent of our current revenues.

More cuts are certainly part of any budget solution. But we will be crippled as a state if we don’t look at anything else. Also, we’re past the point where we can look for “efficiencies.” The fat was cut awhile back. In our cutting process, we will need to look at what the state government should not be doing at all. That way, whatever government is left doing can be done well.

References:

Partial Government Shutdown Information from Department of Administration

Don Young Consponsors – Text – H.R.702 – 114th Congress (2015-2016): To adapt to changing crude oil market conditions. | Congress.gov | Library of Congress

via Text – H.R.702 – 114th Congress (2015-2016): To adapt to changing crude oil market conditions. | Congress.gov | Library of Congress.

I checked out this bill because the title seemed like it was trying to hide something. This bill lifts all restrictions on the export of crude oil. They could have just said that in the title.

Unplotable Trail Leads to Hidden Vistas

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An amazing forest trail, right of the paved Brotherhood Bridge Trail.

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Love in the forest.

Today’s hiking plans misfired far more than yesterday’s but still had a good outcome.

The plan was to go out to the Juneau Airport Dike Trail for a couple of hours around 9:30 am and come home in time to had off the car so my spouse could hang out with a friend.

Despite the fact I’ve been to the Airport Dike Trail a number of times before, I just could not find the trailhead today. Partly it was a matter of construction around intersections I normally use to get there. I tried several different routes but kept getting forced back onto to the main roads. It was like some wizard had come along and made the trailhead unplottable. My temper flared and I was very frustrated. I could have have turned around, gone home and grumbled for the rest of the day. Instead I took a deep breath and decided to go on the Brotherhood Bridge trail instead.

Juneau’s Bridge Trail is a paved path along the Mendenhall river just past Riverbend as you are driving out from town. It’s pretty enough, but I go there fairly often. It wasn’t quite what I was in the mood for, but I decide any walking was better than no walking. So I drove to the Dimond Park Field House and parked my car next to one of the entrances to the Brotherhood Bridge trail. I started walking, I quickly reached a pedestrian bridge over the Mendenhall River. I stopped for a moment mid stream to take in the mountains, the clouds and the river. Then I crossed to the other side and hung a left. I intended to go to the start of the trail, currently blocked by bridge construction. However, I noticed a dirt trail leading off to my right. I’ve noticed these turn offs for years, but never actually took one. Why not now? So I started down a well maintained dirt and gravel trail.

It blew me away almost immediately. Tall trees with the trail sloping up hill, a tributary stream to the Mendenhall clearly audible. Before I got too entranced, I called my spouse and let her know about my change in plans. When hiking in Alaska, you ALWAYS tell people where you are going and when you expect to be back. It’s just what we do and it has saved lives. Not telling people has ended lives. I would probably be ok, but why take chances?

After my spouse confirmed my change of plans, I continued walking. I set a timer for a half hour, because I still needed to be home in time to hand off the car. After the top of the hill, the view widened some and I saw that I was close to a swiftly flowing creek. The lack of still water may have contributed to the lack of flying insects. The path kept branching. There were a few places were it looked like the path might go back to pavement and I turned away from those. I had a great half hour and had walked more than a mile when my alarm chimed. I hadn’t found the end of this branch. So I headed back in the direction that I came. I resolved to take an exit out onto the paved path if the opportunity presented itself. After several branches, a way to the main path appeared and I took it. It turned out to be about five minutes down from when I entered the forest. I easily made it back to my car. I had a grand time and I’ll definitely be back on the next sunny weekend.

Moral of the story – I discovered whole new vistas because I was willing to set my anger at myself and frustration aside and try something different. It worked for me and I hope it works for you.

References:

Juneau Airport Dike Trail

Unplotability, Harry Potter Wiki

Brotherhood Bridge Trail

Hiking Windfall Lake Trail: Way Beyond the Red Line

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Windfall Lake Trail, Juneau Alaska

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Windfall Lake from Windfall Lake Cabin, May 30, 2015

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Windfall Lake Cabin. End of the Windfall Lake Trail.

Today I hiked the Windfall Lake Trail at Mile 27 of Glacier Highway. My original plan was to:

  • Get up around 6 am.
  • Leave about 7 am.
  • Get to the trail about 7:30 and allow for two hours to the cabin and back. I was going to use my MapMyWalk app to track my distance.
  • Spend about a half hour at the cabin reading thru its log book – always entertaining reading.
  • Get home sometime around 2 pm to give my spouse the car

Aside from it actually taking two hours from the trailhead to the cabin and another two hours back, nothing about the day went to plan. But that was ok.

Let’s start at the beginning. My eyes snapped open at 3:30 am. I had gotten to bed around 10:30 pm, so I wasn’t actually refreshed. I tried going back to sleep but gave up around 4 am. I made coffee, got breakfast and put my hiking bag together. I was in the car before 5 am, headed to the trailhead.

The Windfall Lake Trail isn’t exactly well-marked and I had only hiked it once before. I wound up passing it by the first time. This actually worked out well because I wound up stopping near Eagle Beach and got to see mountains over the sea and some geese in the water. I took pictures with my phone and wished I had my regular camera because it would have gotten a better picture of the geese. I got back into the car and made it back to the trailhead. The trailhead is almost exactly at mile 27 and is located on the Juneau side of the bridge over the Herbert River. It starts out as a wide dirt road, then becomes an actual trail.

When I got out of my car, I tried to set MapMyWalk. It couldn’t get a lock on GPS or on the data network. It’s indicators just spun sadly. So I turned off my location service and set a stop watch. While it would have been nice to know the exact mileage, not having MapMyWalk worked out well because I could stop and take pictures without worrying about how it would affect my pace.

Not having GPS or phone service did bring to mind Commander Adama’s line from the 2003 Battlestar Galactica miniseries:

We’ve jumped way beyond the Red Line into uncharted space.

21st Century problems.

The trail was beautiful and easy, especially compared with last week’s trip on the DuPont trail. The three miles to the cabin were relatively easy. I stopped frequently to take photos. I saw a few more geese and at least one eagle. I was very impressed with how tall the evergreen trees were and kept looking up at the forest canopy.

There was a lot of board walk on the trail. This is great on dry days, but I think would be a lot harder on wet days. There were fallen trees on the trail, but fortunately our local trails group had sawed out the chunks that would have been on the trail itself. There wasn’t much in the way of wildflowers aside from white Dogwoods. Can’t wait to see how colorful the forests and meadows will be in late June/July.

I reached the lake and cabin (2nd and 3rd photos above) about 7:45 am. I looked around a bit, took some photos. I wasn’t sure whether the cabin had been rented the previous night. I looked in one of the windows and saw large glasses on the table. Rented. They had the place till 9 or 9:30. So I started backing away. Not fast enough to keep their dog from barking. I continued leaving quietly and no one came out. I hope they were able to get back to sleep.

The way back was just as pretty as the way in, just with more sun and more mosquitoes. It was morning twilight when I started and now the sun was well above the horizon. I seldom wish for sunglasses in Juneau, but I did today.

I was back at the trailhead just before 10 am. This worked out well because it meant I was able to do some grocery shopping and meet my spouse and a friend for lunch.

So – a day where little went according to plan, but it was all good. Now I think I need a nap. But I’ll definitely be back this summer, unlike DuPont.

References

Battlestar Galactica (2003) Quotes, IMDB

Windfall Lake Trail, US Forest Service

DuPont (Pt. Bishop) Trail, US Forest Service

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