Parnell, legislators set aside contention to build state Few vetoes expected despite $3 billion in capital spending plan

A record $3 billion capital budget for Alaska was put together by legislators without the drama of past years, and the final step, approval by Gov. Sean Parnell, appears likely to have little drama either.

“You will not see the scale of vetoes you saw in prior years,” said Gov. Sean Parnell, who in past years has slashed legislative spending.

For Juneau the budget includes $55.7 million in projects specific to the city’s two House Districts, Rep. Beth Kerttula’s House District 3 and Rep. Cathy Munoz’ House District 4. The two representatives and Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, worked together on a combined capital budget request.

During the legislative process they were able to add $23 million to Parnell’s request.

The Juneau total also does not include some regional and even statewide projects, such as $60 million towards a new Alaska-class ferry, and local projects in a $450 million bond package.

The largest single appropriation on Juneau’s wish list was funding for a new State Library, Archives and Museum projects. Parnell and legislators each chipped in for a budget request of $49 million.

That was considered a “Juneau” project, but Rep. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, and co-chair of the House Finance Committee, said it shouldn’t be.

That’s not a Juneau project, that’s a statewide project for all Alaskans,” he said.

The state needs a museum building in which its antiquities, which can ensure that they’ll be preserved for future generations, he said.

Combined with some money already allocated for what’s known as the “SLAM project,” about half the project’s $120 million estimated cost is now available.

“I consider it priceless, being a lover of Alaska history,” Stoltze said.

Members of the Juneau delegation also used their share of capital budget money for local schools, including computer upgrades at Floyd Dryden, JDHS, Mendenhall River and Aurora Borealis schools, and for the University.

Capital Transit will get $1.5 million with which to buy 15 new buses, while the Juneau Community Foundation will get $650,000 to design a new ice rink for Dimond Park, among many city and non-profit efforts getting help.

Some projects, like the SLAM project are only partially funded. Both the renovation of the state’s Douglas Island Building and the State Office Building parking garage are in line to receive money for the first phase of a three-phase project.

In the last few years, contentious battles over the capital budget have led to Parnell vetoing hundreds of millions each year. That often led to disappointment, and sometimes anger, as expected money did not arrive.

Parnell said not to expect that level of vetoes this year, as he was able to reach an agreement with legislators on a capital-spending amount early in the session and the appropriation bills are within that amount.

But he cautioned he’s not giving up the right to veto as he delves into the capital budget, either.

“I will make those decisions after we fully analyze what has passed,” he said.

During last year’s bitter oil tax battles, in which the Senate refused to pass an oil tax cut that Parnell wanted, senators said they feared Parnell would retaliate against opponents with his veto pen.

That did not appear to happen, and Parnell said it wouldn’t happen this year either.

“I haven’t done that in the past, and I don’t intend to do that in the future,” he said.

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

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