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Muñoz praises capital budget, laments Coastal Management loss

Posted: May 17, 2011 - 7:43pm
Rep. Kathy Muñoz   Chris Miller
Chris Miller
Rep. Kathy Muñoz

This year’s legislative session, which concluded Saturday following extra innings, had some disappointments, said Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, but also some remarkable successes in the big capital budget that funds large, one-time projects such as highways and harbors.

“If you go through the budget, there’s quite a list of Juneau projects in there,” Muñoz said. “We have a very strong capital budget.”

The disappointment was that no agreement was able to be reached that saved the Alaska Coastal Management Program, she said.

“That didn’t happen, and that was unfortunate,” Muñoz said.

She blamed the Senate for some of the problems, both there and with the debate over the capital budget.

“It was unfortunate that the Senate held on to the (capital budget) for as long as it did, and also unfortunate that there was an unwillingness to move off that non-severability language in the capital budget,” Muñoz said.

The Senate, fearing vetoes by Gov. Sean Parnell aimed at those senators who balked at his demand for oil tax reductions, tried to link $450 million in energy projects together to make them difficult to veto. That forced a special session, which finally ended after the Senate backed down last week.

Ongoing road and repaving projects have the largest share of the nearly $78 million in capital budget projects — pending gubernatorial vetoes — slated for Juneau. But for Juneau and other coastal communities, harbor projects are sometimes just as important.

“We’ve got some great harbor projects,” she said. Those included Juneau’s new cruise ship docks, slated to receive $7.5 million, and facilities at Auke bay, including DeHart’s Marina, at $5 million.

The Juneau delegation cooperated on the capital budget, making uses of its relative strengths, including Muñoz in the House Majority, Rep. Beth Kerttula as leader of the Democratic minority, and Sen. Dennis Egan, a Democrat, a member of the Senate Working Group’s majority coalition.

“We work closely together, and that’s good for Juneau,” Muñoz said.

One last-minute budget change that was approved with the backing of the full delegation was boosting funding for the Sealaksa Heritage Institute’s Native Cultural Center downtown.

The $5 million in state money that was sought will be the last of the state money the project is requesting, with project sponsors also seeking other foundation funding.

Muñoz said her big disappointment was the failure of Coastal Management to be retained past June.

She said the Senate should have accepted the agreement reached between the House and Parnell, which she called a “very finely balanced compromise.”

“A considerable amount of work was done on building a compromise the governor was comfortable with, as well as industry, as well as the coastal districts,” she said.

“The Senate made changes that at one point the governor was comfortable with, and then the governor backed away from some of those changes,” she said. “The product that came back to the House (for concurrence) I was absolutely convinced was going to be vetoed by the governor,” she said. She voted against concurring, which failed in the House, sending the bill to a conference committee.

That committee drafted a compromise, which also failed to be accepted by a 20-15 vote Saturday. Approval required 21 votes.

Muñoz and Kerttula were among the 20 voting in favor, but that wasn’t enough to pass the bill. The House then adjourned early before the conference committee could reconsider the bill.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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