Legislature goes ahead with bond proposal for transportation projects

Posted: Monday, April 14, 2008

A divided Legislature has decided to ask voters to borrow an additional $315 million to spend on transportation projects.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

Even those who voted for the package of projects - spread about the state in order to gain the approval of the widest number of voters - worried that it might be too much.

Gov. Sarah Palin had first proposed asking the voters to approve $140 million in general obligation bonds for transportation projects.

Sunday, Palin called the bond package "large, but not too large."

A single Juneau project is a $5 million intersection improvement at Glacier Highway and Back Loop Road.

That project was among numerous added in the Senate Finance Committee, where co-chairman Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, represents Sitka and Ketchikan.

Rep. Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, said the Legislature tried for geographic balance to win more support from voters. Projects worth $22 million were added in Stedman's district.

"Let's just hope there are a lot of people in Sitka and Ketchikan that come out and vote," Meyer said during floor debate.

"I did add a couple of projects," Stedman said later, but they were moved from the capital budget to reduce it.

Rep. Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, said that without the bond package, the capital budget would have topped $3 billion.

"If the people who are bringing forward this actually believe in these projects, they should have put them in the capital budget," said Rep. Mike Doogan, D-Anchorage.

Meyer acknowledged that the addition of projects to the list may actually wind up hurting the measure's chances at the polls in August.

"I think there are a couple of projects in there that may scare off some voters," he said.

Rep. Carl Gatto, R-Palmer, questioned whether the state should be issuing bonds for roads when the state is "awash in money" but would likely be short on cash when it comes time to pay them off.

The House voted 24-16 to go along with the Senate's project list.

Juneau's delegation was divided on it, with Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, voting in favor and Rep. Andrea Doll, D-Juneau, voting against. Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, had earlier supported the measure in the Senate.

• Contact Pat Forgey at 586-4816 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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