State and local briefly

Posted: Friday, March 31, 2000

Senate Finance Committee moves budget

JUNEAU - The Senate Finance Committee today moved out its version of the state's operating budget for the 2001 fiscal year.

Much of the spending in the bill tracks with the budget passed by the House, with the major differences being in University of Alaska and public school funding.

Sen. Sean Parnell, an Anchorage Republican and co-chairman of the Finance Committee, said the measure comes in about $25 million under last year's general fund spending level, totaling about $2.1 billion.

When other funds, such as cash from the federal government, are included, the Senate's budget for the 2001 fiscal year is about $6.6 billion, up from nearly $6.4 billion last year.

The difference, Parnell pointed out, is mostly a matter of the Alaska Permanent Fund. Another $41 million will go toward dividends in 2001, bringing the total paid to Alaskans to $1.2 billion. Another $224 million will go toward inflation-proofing the fund.

The bill is expected to go before the full Senate near the middle of next week.

Visiting cutter welcomes public tours

JUNEAU - A Coast Guard cutter named after the author of ``Roots'' is visiting Juneau and will be open to the public from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday.

The 282-foot cutter is named for Alex Haley, famous author and the first journalist in the Coast Guard. He enlisted in 1939 as a steward. After his writing talents were discovered in 1952, the Coast Guard created the journalist rating for him. Haley died in 1992.

Father, two children die in Nikiski fire

ANCHORAGE - Three members of a Nikiski family were killed in a trailer fire early Thursday that was likely caused by a cigarette, according to Alaska State Troopers.

Richard Downie, 39, and his sons Daniel, 11, and Robert, 5, were killed in the blaze. Downie's wife Corrine, 33, got out of the trailer safely.

The fire started in a couch where Richard Downie reportedly smoked a cigarette just before going to bed, said fire investigator Carol MacDonald of the state fire marshal's office. But an electrical device also might have started the fire, she said.

Smoke detectors in the trailer were not in working order, and the trailer's back door was blocked shut by snow, making escape there impossible, according to trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson.

Richard and Corrine Downie were awakened shortly after 2 a.m. Thursday with the home ablaze. Richard Downie pushed his wife outside from the arctic entryway, then turned around and tried to get the children, Wilkinson said.

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