Bright, shiny objects: Governor’s cancer removed, state income taxes ahead



Gov. Bill Walker, file photo

WALKER RECOVERING: Gov. Bill Walker underwent surgery for four hours on Monday to remove cancerous tissue from his prostate.

According to the news release from his office, no further treatment is expected.

“I would like to thank the talented medical team who made this surgery a success, and the countless Alaskans who have sent their well wishes over the past month. The outpouring of support my family and I have received since announcing my cancer diagnosis has been incredibly humbling. This is an important reminder for all Alaskans to schedule regular checkups with their doctor so early detection of health issues can provide more treatment options. I look forward to returning to work very soon.”

The governor announced his cancer diagnosis on Nov. 4 during a press conference that included his entire family and said his surgery would take place out of state, where he presumably is recovering today.

STATE TAX PROPOSAL AHEAD: Word from inside the Governor’s Office is that the budget that must be submitted to the Legislature by this Thursday will include two tax proposals for Alaskans. One will be an income tax. One will be a sales tax.

The sales tax is a red herring. The governor is hoping the business community will raise a stink about the sales tax and cave on the income tax instead.

Earlier this year, the Rasmuson Foundation offered the suggestion that the income tax proposal, which would have raised just $200 million for state workers, needed to be increased. Look for a proposal from the governor this week that will at least double that amount, taking a serious bite out of Alaska workers’ paychecks to pay for State services.

What is the business community likely to say? “Cut government first before you look at revenue measures,” is the likely response. There’s more work to be done in cuts. Business leaders are not likely to take the bait and support an income tax without significant budget cuts.


MORE CHANGES IN GOVERNOR’S OFFICE: Word is circulating in political circles that the governor’s new Chief of Staff Scott Kendall is going to make some staff changes. We don’t know what they are yet, but some questions are in order:

Where is Commissioner of Revenue Randall Hoffbeck? He has not been seen much lately, even as the budget deadline grows closer. Instead, Tax Division Director Ken Alper is making the rounds on the governor’s budget proposal.

Hoffbeck has let it be known he’s ready to return to mission work, but is Alper being groomed to take his spot? Come to think of it, where has Office of Management and Budget Director Pat Pitney been?

OCEANS OF SPECULATION: Beth Kerttula, former Juneau representative who left to work on ocean issues and ended up in the Obama Administration, is back in Juneau and clever politicos are speculating that Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, will soon announce his retirement and make way for a gubernatorial appointment.

Kerttula, an affable and smart legislator, was highly speculated in the Department of Law as the one who would be the governor’s choice for attorney general last year.

As a capable political leader and a close associate of Bruce Botelho (former attorney general and governor’s advisor), it’s no surprise her name will continue to circulate for an influential position somewhere in government.

Stay tuned, as you have not seen the last of Beth Kerttula.