My Turn: Juneau to benefit from budget decisions

Posted: Friday, July 04, 2008

Juneau is truly one of the most beautiful state capitals in the nation. It is a vital community blessed with unparalleled natural beauty, history and culture. I understand the economic importance of the capital to Southeast Alaska and I am committed to keeping the capital in Juneau.

Recently, there was discussion about moving the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. offices from Juneau to Anchorage. I opposed that move. Given the technology that exists today, physical location is simply not a factor in the successful performance of the managers of our permanent fund.

In the recently passed budget, we have invested in our communities by addressing needed deferred maintenance, transportation and infrastructure projects while providing a significant boost to education, public health and safety. My administration is working diligently to provide the infrastructure and support appropriate from government that will allow communities across the state, and our capital city of Juneau, to grow and prosper.

Public employee retirement and teacher retirement systems

Statewide, the budget includes $450 million to pay down costs for public employee retirement and teacher retirement systems that accumulated prior to this administration - which is a responsible approach to stabilizing our retirement systems. In Juneau, the state will provide more than $14.2 million for much-needed relief for retirement system costs to the city and the school district.

Education

The multi-year K-12 education funding package that passed this year is the largest increase in the state's history. In fiscal year 2009, the state will provide more than $1 billion for public education. Juneau will receive more than $36 million for approximately 5,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The education funding package will provide $5.6 million more for Juneau schools in fiscal year 2010 through fiscal year 2011.

The budget also provides almost $189 million for school construction and major maintenance projects statewide in addition to about $97 million for the school debt reimbursement program. This program pays municipal schools districts either 60 or 70 percent of the amount of voter-approved bonds for school projects. Two schools in Juneau will receive grants for needed renovation and capital improvements totaling $17.3 million in fiscal year 2009. Debt reimbursement for voter-approved school projects in Juneau totals $12.3 million.

Community revenue sharing

The budget includes $60 million for community revenue sharing. These funds will help communities address significant pressure on local resources and provide tax relief. Juneau will receive an estimated $2.1 million in revenue sharing, which is $365,690 more than last year.

Transportation

The budget and GO Bond bills include several road and other transportation projects for Juneau - nearly $17.4 million in road construction and improvements and $2 million for improvements to the Douglas Boat Harbor.

Reliable, dependable ferry service is a vital component of Juneau access. Despite the critics, the Alaska Marine Highway System made several schedule changes for the summer season. These schedule changes focused on Juneau as a hub, and most are proving very successful. Passenger traffic numbers to Juneau for the summer season are up roughly 23 percent from last year and the season is still peaking.

The capital budget also included $60 million in state funding to the Alaska Marine Highway Vessel Replacement Fund. AMHS can continue its work designing a prototype replacement vessel knowing a significant amount of funding is set aside for its purchase.

Additional funding

There is $10.2 million in the budget for improvements to the Anderson Building at the University of Alaska Southeast, along with $7.5 million for planning and design of the Alaska State Museum expansion. The budget also includes more than $6.3 million for deferred maintenance for state facilities in Juneau, $3 million for critical water and sewer projects and $2.8 million for improvements for airport and dock facilities related to cruise ship passengers.

We all benefit from investments made in needed services and in our communities. I encourage residents to examine the many important projects in the budget for Juneau.

• Sarah Palin is governor of the state of Alaska.



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