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Senate passes capital budget

New version adds several local projects

Posted: April 12, 2012 - 12:09am  |  Updated: April 12, 2012 - 6:44am

The Alaska Senate made final revisions to the state’s capital budget Wednesday, before passing it unanimously and sending the $2.63 billion budget to the House of Representatives.

“We should be able to keep our economy just cooking right along,” said Sen. Bert Stedman, co-chairman of the budget-writing Senate Finance Committee.

Stedman said the state anticipated the economic downturn in the Lower 48 dragging down Alaska’s economy as well, and beefed up spending from the state’s ample surpluses in response.

“We took aggressive steps to mitigate that, that appears to be successful,” he said.

The goal of the capital budget was to “create jobs and keep up with the standard of living the Lower 48 has,” he said.

“The concentration on the capital budget was to grow our economy and help it diversify, and lower our cost of living for Alaskans,” he said.

The budget includes several changes from a previous version, including the loss of one Juneau highway improvement and the addition of several other Juneau appropriations.

The loss was of a project to add LED lighting on Juneau’s Egan Drive. Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, said even though the new energy efficient, long-lasting lights are performing well on city streets, they’re not yet approved for high-speed roads such as Egan Drive.

Among the projects Stedman highlighted on the Senate Floor Wednesday were $23 million in library matching grants, which would include a new library in Juneau’s Mendenhall Valley.

Some communities have more enthusiasm for libraries than do others, but Stedman said they have value.

“In a democracy, the more people that can read and write and do arithmetic, the better we function,” he said.

Other projects added for Juneau included $82,000 for middle school computer replacement, $20,000 for the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault for office equipment replacement, $80,000 to Capital Community Broadcasting for an online access upgrade to Gavel to Gavel television, $10,000 to a Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska program aimed at preserving their heritage through digital media, $150,000 for Communities in Schools for Juneau’s dropout prevention program, $12,000 for Juneau Family Health and Birth Center’s electronic health record system, $30,000 for the Juneau Symphony’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, $25,000 for Perseverance Theatre’s scene shop remodel and vehicle upgrade, $29,700 for Southeast Alaska Independent Living equipment and $7,500 for SEARHC’s Youth Ambassador Suicide Prevention Conference.

There was also $80,000 for the SERRC’s boiler upgrade, $10,000 for Theatre in the Rough’s McPhetres Hall stage upgrade and $75,000 to Wildflower Court for repair of a retaining wall,

The budget contains appropriations of about $1.8 billion in state funds and $830 million in federal funds.

The largest items in the budget statewide were transportation projects, totaling $710 million, with school and education projects valued at $340 million and energy projects valued at $190 the next largest amounts.

The capital budget now goes to the House of Representatives, where Stedman said Senate leaders and the governor left room for additional money to be added.

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

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