In what was supposed to be a legislative wrap-up, Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, spoke at Thursday’s Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon and shared highlights of the session, which was supposed to end Easter Sunday but has gone into extra innings.
“One of the good things is we have the BSA,” Egan said. Although, “it’s not the $423 (increase per student) Juneau needs to break even.”
The BSA, or Base Student Allocation, is the amount the state pays school districts for each student. Late Wednesday night, the House and Senate agreed on an increase of $150 per student next year and an increase of $50 the two following years. House and Senate debates on BSA amounts was part of what took the Legislature into overtime.
The Legislature also “killed (school) vouchers in a constitutional amendment,” Egan said.
The vouchers would have provided state money to private schools.
“But session’s not over — a lot of things can happen,” he warned.
Not education-related, but worthy of a mention was legislation adopted this week mandating Alaska’s massage therapists be licensed. He said he was surprised to learn there were 120 new massage therapists in Alaska last year, “and they weren’t regulated at all.”
Juneau got “great capital money,” Egan said. The entirety of the new State Library Archives Museum building was covered by the state — $138.5 million in construction.
“We got it all,” he said. “It’s a major, major shot in the arm for our community.”
Juneau also got money to dig more drinking water wells and refurbish old wells at Last Chance Basin, increasing the amount of water available in town. The city also got $650,000 from the state to improve filtration at Salmon Creek, another source of Juneau’s water.
There’s also state money to finish fixing the Capitol building — $6 million for construction that will start May 13. According to Egan, Main Street will be closed May 15.
“The only thing I don’t like is that the crane is in my parking space,” he joked.
Egan also secured $1.8 million for Skagway’s dock. Although, with the town’s ferry ramp sinking into the harbor late Wednesday night, part of that money will be fast-tracked to fix it, Egan said.
“I bet they want a road now,” Juneau Chamber CEO Cathie Roemmich said.
And, of course, the road out of Juneau was funded at $35 million. Or, as Egan calls it, “the road into Juneau.”
“That’s what I like to say,” he said.
“It’s been a major thorn in our side since statehood,” Egan said. “I’m not going to be around to see the final product, but I hope a lot of you will be.”
Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated what type of schools voucher money would fund. This has since been corrected. The Empire regrets the error.
• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.