Senate approves $1.2 billion capital budget

$21 million slated for Juneau projects

Posted: Sunday, May 12, 2002

The Senate approved a $1.2 billion capital budget for next fiscal year that includes construction and maintenance projects from the North Slope to the Panhandle.

It also includes a fair amount of goodies that lawmakers can take back to their districts.

Juneau projects total more than $21 million. The majority of the local appropriation includes $15.8 million for road improvement projects and city vehicles in Juneau.

The measure, Senate Bill 247, also includes $338,000 in emergency funding for senior housing at Fireweed Place, a downtown apartment complex. It faces foreclosure due to low occupancy, which would displace about 60 seniors.

A joint venture between the University of Alaska Southeast and the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs received $2.5 million to partially fund a building that will double as a recreation center for the college and an armory for the National Guard.

The North Douglas sewer extension project will receive $1.9 million to expand sewer lines from the Douglas Bridge to the Bonnie Brae subdivision. Bartlett Regional Hospital will receive half of the $300,000 needed to buy a new mobile mammography unit. The unit will be used throughout Southeast to test for breast cancer.

And city parks will get $150,000 to design a recreation center and swimming pool in Dimond Park, and Juneau Wellness Court will get $48,000 for alcohol and drug prevention.

Lawmakers say the capital budget - which includes $890.6 million in federal funds along with $109 million from the state's general fund and $199.8 million from other sources - is a smaller piece of a long list of construction projects for Alaska in the coming years.

A much larger proposal is legislation that would ask voters for permission to float more than $400 million in general obligation bonds for new schools and highway projects. Alaska voters haven't considered such a request in about 20 years.

"The big game this year is on the statewide G.O. bond package. That's where the real action is on school construction and maintenance in urban and rural Alaska," said Minority Leader Johnny Ellis.

About two-thirds of the state's capital budget - or $778.5 million - is earmarked for transportation projects.

The measure, Senate Bill 247, passed the Republican-controlled Senate on a party-line vote of 14-6. It now goes to the House for consideration.

Democrats maintain it includes about $16.5 million in state funds for projects sought by individual lawmakers for their constituents.

Among the projects:

• Kenai Peninsula Borough would receive $45,000 for the Arctic Winter Games. The borough has bid for the games to be held there in 2006. Another $150,000 is set aside for the Arctic Winter Games Team Alaska.

• The Matanuska Electric Association would receive about $200,000 to run power to the Princess Lodge on the Parks Highway.

• Alaska Trappers Association would receive $50,000 for an instructional video on wolf trapping.

• The city of Larsen Bay would receive $20,000 for mosquito magnet units. Sen. Alan Austerman, a Kodiak Republican, said the request is in response to an especially high concentration of mosquitoes there.

"I've been there a number of different times campaigning. You can't walk down the street and open your mouth," Austerman said.

Ellis, a Democrat from Anchorage, said numerous projects could be viewed as "pork" meant to curry favor with voters.

Senate Finance Co-Chair Pete Kelly, a Fairbanks Republican, bristled at the suggestion and said few questions are raised when Gov. Tony Knowles makes similar requests.

Empire reporter Tim Inklebarger contributed to this article.

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