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Committee restores 'Access Road' funds to capital budget

House Finance Committee releases new version

Posted: April 14, 2013 - 12:06am
Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, talks with Rep. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, in the House Chambers at the Capitol on Friday.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, talks with Rep. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, in the House Chambers at the Capitol on Friday.

The House Finance Committee unveiled a state capital budget Saturday adding to the version already passed by the Senate, with one of Gov. Sean Parnell’s major priorities for Juneau receiving funding: the Juneau Access Road project.

The Senate Finance Committee cut funding for the controversial project, which would extend Juneau’s road system north to Katzehin, when it produced its version of the budget.

The latest version, which was unveiled Saturday evening after a flurry of delays, restores most of Parnell’s original $10 million request for Juneau Access. The House Finance Committee added $4.6 million back in — as well as nearly $5.4 million reappropriated from unspent funds originally allocated for other projects.

Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, the only Southeast Alaska legislator on either Finance committee, said she was “very pleased” with the result of her committee’s work.

“I’m feeling really good, considering that the revenues are much less this year for discretionary spending, and so I think overall we did really well,” said Muñoz. “I’m very pleased that we restored the Juneau Access funding.”

Grants for Juneau included in the House Finance version of the capital budget include $3 million for the Snow Removal Equipment Facility planned at Juneau International Airport, $500,000 for the third phase of the Don D. Statter Harbor’s new haul-out facility, $57,300 for curricular materials for the Juneau School District, and $35,000 for thermal imaging cameras for Capital City Fire/Rescue.

All but the $3 million for SREF are new to the budget, not having been included in the version that passed the Senate earlier this month.

Ketchikan benefits under the new version as well, with $10 million for alterations and additions to the PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center included in the Senate version of the capital budget rising to $15 million in the House Finance version.

“I think given the fact that overall, we were expecting a smaller capital budget, I think that as a region we did pretty well,” Muñoz said.

The House Finance version of the budget also adds $1 million as a grant for the Juneau-based Marine Exchange of Alaska to help construct a new building.

Other Juneau grant recipients include the Juneau Shooting Sports Foundation, which is set to receive $20,000 for competitive shooting and gun safety programs at middle schools; Juneau Youth Services, which is slated for $30,000 to purchase two vans; and Southeast Alaska Independent Living Inc., with $10,400 for a ramp-equipped taxi.

Funding for the State Library Archives Museum project in Juneau is still marked as districtwide. Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, had argued for the project to be considered statewide, meaning that the $20 million allocated for it would not count against the amount of funding that can be allocated for projects in Egan’s Senate district.

The Alaska Department of Administration building in Douglas was set to receive $9.6 million under the Senate version, but the House Finance version pares that back to $9 million.

Two million dollars in funding for repair of the Juneau State Office Building’s parking garage is removed altogether in the latest version of the budget.

Muñoz suggested that money may have been removed to make way for the Juneau Access funding.

At press time, the House Finance Committee had yet to consider amendments on the budget or move it out of committee, although it voted to adopt it as the working draft.

Rep. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, co-chairman of the committee for the capital budget, said he wanted to get the capital budget out for members to look over Saturday with the intention of allowing them to “fact-check” it for any technical errors.

“I wanted to get this before the members,” said Stoltze. “There are some mistakes that we’re aware of.”

Stoltze said earlier in the day that he hoped to have “glitches” sorted out before distributing the budget.

The House must pass the capital budget and the Senate must concur with the House’s changes before the end of the legislative session in order for the budget to be sent to Parnell’s desk for approval.

According to numbers released Saturday night by the nonpartisan Legislative Finance Division, the House Finance version of the capital budget weighs in at nearly $2.21 billion, $999 million of which comes from unrestricted general funds. That represents an approximately $97.6 million UGF increase over the Senate version of the budget.

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 586-1821 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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