Alaska's Governor Shakes Up Gas Pipeline Team
By Josh Goodman, Staff Writer
Even though Sean Parnell will continue to serve as Alaska 's governor for the next four years, the state will have a new team working on one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects in American history. Parnell announced that the person heading up the state's natural gas pipeline project, deputy natural resources commissioner Marty Rutherford, will not be returning, the Anchorage Daily News reports . Parnell also accepted the resignations of six department heads, including two other commissioners who were part of the group working to build the 1,700-mile pipeline to send natural gas from Alaska's North Slope to the continental United States. The moves come as Parnell seeks to put his own stamp on the state government he inherited from Governor Sarah Palin when she resigned last summer. But they also may reflect the struggles the pipeline has faced. So far, the companies looking to build the pipeline-which is expected to cost tens of billions of dollars-have been reluctant to get started without assurances from the state on what their tax rate will be. "It is my desire to move us forward in a slightly different way on the same path," Parnell said, according to the Daily News .
With Ohio facing a $8 billion budget shortfall in the next biennium, the incoming Speaker of the House says that the state will seek federal permission for Medicaid cuts, the Columbus Dispatch reports . In doing so, William Batchelder is likely to provoke a clash with the new federal health care reform legislation. The legislation requires states to provide Medicaid coverage to anyone making less than 133 percent of the federal poverty line. Batchelder thinks coverage eligibility must fall back to the poverty line for the state to balance its budget. "That seems to me to be inevitable," he told the Dispatch.
Montana 's House Republicans will decide next week whether they want their leader to be conservative or more conservative, the Associated Press reports . The two contenders for the speakership, Krayton Kerns and Mike Milburn , both describe themselves as fiscal conservatives. But Kerns is trying to gain the upper hand by stressing confrontation with the federal government. "So far the states have been the battered spouse of the federal government," the Associated Press quoted him as saying. A Kerns victory could put Montana in line to follow the paths of Arizona and Utah, states where Republican legislators challenged the Obama administration on multiple fronts over the last two years. Prior to the election the Montana House was divided evenly between Republicans and Democrats, but now the G.O.P. will control 68 of its 100 seats.
Kansas Governor-elect Sam Brownback says he doesn't support the sales tax increase that the state approved earlier this year. But he's also not proposing to change it. The issue has reemerged thanks to Republicans' big wins in the Kansas House of Representatives. The one cent-per-dollar sales tax hike, a top priority of outgoing Democratic Governor Mark Parkinson, passed the House thanks to a coalition between Democrats and moderate Republicans. But with Republicans netting 16 House seats in the elections, state Representative Owen Donohoe is leading a House movement for repeal, the Lawrence Journal-World reports . Brownback has a reputation as a conservative Republican, but he says he doesn't want to revisit the temporary three-year sales tax increase. In reality, the new governor may never be placed in the awkward position of having to decide whether to veto the sales tax repeal. Kansas didn't hold regular Senate elections this year, meaning the body retains essentially the same group of lawmakers who approved the sales tax. Unless they reverse course, the repeal will never reach Brownback's desk.
Andrew Cuomo is almost starting to sound like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Cuomo, New York 's Democratic governor-elect, ran on a promise to cap property taxes. He reiterated his anti-tax message yesterday, saying, according to Bloomberg , "No new taxes, no new taxes, no new taxes."