Juneau receives $63 million slice of capital budget

Posted: Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Juneau's sliver of the $2.4 billion in capital projects being proposed by the state House is about $63 million, which is mostly for big-ticket items such as $10.5 million for widening the highway out the road and $17 million in school renovations.

The budget also includes a number of smaller proposals for nonprofit groups, including $75,000 for upgrades for the dorms at the Glory Hole homeless shelter and $25,000 for a new van for Juneau Youth Services.

The proposed budget, which is a mix of requests from Juneau's legislative delegation and proposed projects from Gov. Sarah Palin, also sets aside $3 million for some of the planning and designing of a new state museum; $100,000 for repairs to St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church; and $50,000 to fund, in part, Juneau's indoor shooting range.

The $63 million is composed of about $40 million from the state's general fund, $10.5 million from the federal government and $12 million from other sources.

Juneau's legislative delegation said the budget proposal, which is before the House Finance Committee, was the product of a lengthy effort to identify the community's greatest needs.

"We said 'yes' to a few and 'no' to a whole bunch more," said Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau.

Elton is a member of the powerful Senate Finance Committee that helped shepherd Juneau's share through the early phases of the budget process. He said he was confident Juneau's piece of the pie would remain intact when it left the Legislature. What Palin, a Republican, would do with the overall capital budget, including Juneau's share, remained the "biggest question mark," Elton said.

Palin and lawmakers have been at odds for much of this session, with both sides accusing the other of spending too much while not saving enough. Lawmakers removed some of her capital budget requests, which included more money for the indoor shooting range and state library.

Sharon Leighow, a spokeswoman for Palin, said the governor would evaluate the entire budget once it was complete before deciding the fate of individual projects, including those proposed for the Juneau area.

Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, praised Palin's earlier efforts to meet with individual lawmakers to discuss money matters during an earlier budget clash and said she was looking forward to having the Juneau delegation sit down and discuss Juneau's capital budget requests with Palin.

Kerttula said the Juneau delegation's budget priorities would hold up well under scrutiny.

"We're pretty focused by the time we make a capital budget request," Kerttula said. "I know it's a lot of lot money, but it's still a pretty tight budget by any comparison."

• Contact reporter Alan Suderman at 523-2268 or e-mail alan.suderman@juneauempire.com.



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