Alaska editorials

2/8/2016 11:00 AM
By Associated Press

Here is a sampling of editorial opinions from Alaska newspapers:

Feb. 6, 2016

Ketchikan Daily News: The ups and downs

A colorful graph paints a pretty picture— the Alaska Permanent Fund did well in fiscal 2015. Not so much this year to date.

With a strategy that focuses on long-term investment, permanent fund managers stayed clear of trying to time the markets, or zero in on short-term market potential in the most recent complete year of statistics related to the fund.

The fund stuck with a proven strategy, and it paid off with a 4.9 percent, or $1.6 billion, increase to the fund, which totaled $52.8 billion as of June, the close of the fund's fiscal year, according to the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp's recently published annual report.

Despite volatility, its U.S. stock market portfolio gained 7.2 percent. The non-U.S. portfolio lost 5.2 percent. Still, the global portfolio with both U.S. and non-U.S. funds, returned 1.2 percent.

When it came to bonds, the U.S. bonds increased 1.2 percent and the non-U.S. bonds decreased 2.4 percent.

Other portfolios — private equity, infrastructure investments, and various types of other investments — all returned increases.

The real estate portfolio increased 9.8 percent, and the permanent fund acquired new investments nationally and internationally.

Alaskans, through the permanent fund, bought Valwood & CentrePort Industrial Park in Dallas, the Faraday warehouse in Carlsbad, Calif., and four industrial properties in Illinois and Ohio. Alaska also acquired 50-percent interest in Zenia Boulevard Shopping Centre in Alicante, Spain and Alegro Alfragide Shopping Center in Lisbon, Portugal.

Financial and property gains weren't the fund's only advances. In 1977, the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. started out heavily dependent on outside management located near financial markets. But, with increased experience and new technology, it has focused on bringing those managerial jobs to Alaska.

This increases the number of good-paying jobs in Alaska and saves the corporation millions of dollars in management fees.

Such changes will prove to assist Alaska as it struggles to pull itself out of a financial crisis. The state needs local jobs and Alaskans relying on Alaskans for goods and services to build an economy that supports Alaska. Alaska providing jobs elsewhere won't do it.

Alaskans who support Alaska will continue to receive an Alaska Permanent Fund dividend. The fund paid out $1.3 million in dividends last fall.

That figure will be affected by current domestic and global economies and the state's financial crisis. The permanent fund is likely part of the solution in resolving that crisis, which might be a fixed and/or lowered dividend payout. But, also, the permanent fund's value has declined since June to $49.5 billion. That's a $3.3 billion drop.

Financial pictures change all of the time. Alaskans, however, planned for inevitable ups and downs. That's what the Alaska Permanent Fund is all about.

___

Feb. 4, 2016

Peninsula Clarion: Lawmakers get second chance to confirm Ruffner

Here we go again.

Gov. Bill Walker this week nominated Robert Ruffner to a seat on the Alaska Board of Fisheries, giving the Soldotna resident and former executive director of the Kenai Watershed Forum a second opportunity to sit on the board that sets state fishing regulations.

More significantly, Walker's nomination of Ruffner gives Alaska's legislators a second opportunity at a confirmation process that fell far short of expectations last year.

Ruffner's confirmation last year became politicized — to say the least — with opponents to his nomination floating arguments that, under even the lightest of scrutiny by lawmakers, should've been dismissed as bunk. It was argued, for example, that because commercial fishing advocacy groups supported his nomination, Ruffner would favor commercial fishing — nevermind that he describes himself as an active personal-use fishery participant. And it was suggested that the seat for which Ruffner was nominated was supposed to go to a sport fishing advocate, and that geographical representation should play a role — nevermind that Alaska state law says nothing of the sort.

And with that, Ruffner's confirmation failed on a 30-29 vote.

This session, we hope things are different. Gov. Walker's slate of nominees — Alan Cain of Anchorage and Israel Payton of Wasilla also were nominated to the board — suggests a vision for a board that seeks balance through consensus-building, rather than a body of members balanced only by their opposing points of view. Perhaps Ruffner's greatest accomplishment during his time with the Watershed Forum was his ability to get groups who seemingly have nothing in common — oil companies and conservation organizations, for example — to find common ground and work together on projects.

The board process, without a doubt, can use more of that type of thinking.

Perhaps the Legislature could take a cue as well.

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