Senate releases proposed construction budget

$9 million included for Juneau projects

Posted: Sunday, April 29, 2001

A capital projects bill released by the Senate Finance Committee proposes spending $1.3 billion, heavily backed by money made available by the federal government, for construction projects in Alaska next year.

The bill steers money toward several Juneau projects, including $9 million for improvements to the intersection at 10th Street and Egan Drive, $90,000 for heating and ventilation upgrades to the Juneau Public Health Center and some funds for improvements to the Auke Bay ferry terminal.

The capital budget includes $939 million in federal money, state general funding spending of $100.7 million, and $295 million from other sources including Alaska communities and revenue-generating agencies like the Alaska Housing Finance Corp.

Senate Finance Committee Co-Chairman Pete Kelly said the document proposes spending about $20 million more in state money than last year.

"We were able to address some pretty glaring needs in all the regions of the state," said Kelly, a Fairbanks Republican.

The lion's share of the money -- $906 million -- is directed to the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities for roads, airports, ferries and other projects. Juneau Sen. Kim Elton said the measure needs a lot of work.

"It has not addressed any of the concerns that the minority has expressed," said Elton, a Democrat.

"We're looking for major maintenance and repairs for schools, we're looking for ports and harbors issues, we're looking for university issues, and we can't find them."

Elton wants $7.1 million for Juneau ports and harbors and $2.5 million for a classroom expansion project at the University of Alaska Southeast. He also wants the Senate to move a separate school-funding bill that would appropriate $9 million for renovation of Juneau-Douglas High School.

Gov. Tony Knowles' budget director, Annalee McConnell, said the administration is generally pleased with the capital budget.

"Overall, there are many good things in this," McConnell said, including full funding for Power Cost Equalization, the program that underwrites expensive electricity rates in rural Alaska.

The Senate was scheduled to debate the bill Saturday, but it was removed from the calendar.

The capital projects bill is the major piece of the construction budget but not the only one. House Bill 191, which passed the House on Saturday, contains another $381 million for transportation projects backed by Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle, or GARVEE bonds. The bonds - backed by future federal transportation grant money - are sold to build more roads, ferries and airports. The federal government pays 90 percent of the bonds.

Also on the House floor Saturday was House Bill 234, which finances school, University of Alaska, port and harbor projects by selling bonds backed by a tobacco litigation settlement. The bill contains $67.8 million for schools, $24.5 million for the university, and $35.2 million for ports and harbors.

The bill appropriates $7 million for renovation of JDHS - $2 million shy of the amount Juneau wanted. It also includes $2 million to finish a new classroom wing at UAS. The university hoped for $2.5 million.

Juneau Empire reporter Kathy Dye contributed to this article.

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