Juneau projects on Knowles' wish list

Posted: Tuesday, December 18, 2001

A spending package unveiled by the governor includes money for a host of Juneau projects, including a new National Guard armory, extension of the North Douglas sewer project and expansion of the Alaska State Museum.

Gov. Tony Knowles, a Democrat, announced the spending plan last week, calling it a "strong future" budget that addresses vital services.

However, it still must win approval by the GOP-led Legislature, and Republican leaders are giving the plan a chilly reception. Even Juneau Rep. Bill Hudson is balking at funding the local projects because the state faces a nearly $1 billion budget deficit this year.

"I support all the projects. It's a question of whether we do it now - whether we have the funds to make them all happen," said Hudson, a Republican who serves on the House Finance Committee.

Knowles' spending plan includes a $7.3 billion operating budget, a $925 million capital budget plus an $811 million bonding package. The money would come from state and federal funds.

Juneau highlights include:

$1.9 million for the second phase of the North Douglas sewer extension project.

$8 million for a recreational and drill facility for the National Guard and University of Alaska Southeast.

$7.1 million for upgrades to Juneau harbors, including Douglas, Harris, Aurora, Taku and North Douglas.

$2 million to buy land adjacent to the Alaska State Museum and to plan expansion of the building.

$14.5 million for road improvements to Egan Drive, the Sunny Point intersection and the Tee Harbor area.

Knowles also wants to spend about $100 million over the next six years on 57 new school construction projects and 115 major school maintenance projects. Juneau wants the state to help fund a new high school in the Mendenhall Valley, but Knowles has not said whether he will include that project on his list of priorities next year.

Knowles would fund the first phase of school projects by putting a general obligation bonds package on the 2002 statewide ballot. If voters approved the $200 million package, the Legislature would distribute the money over the next two years. Knowles' plan would appropriate the first $100 million in the fiscal year that begins in July.

House Speaker Brian Porter, an Anchorage Republican, said the Legislature is preparing a plan to address statewide school construction needs, but in "a more realistic and achievable program than the governor has proposed."

Hudson said he did not know whether the Legislature's plan would be broad enough to include the new Juneau high school but that he would fight for it if the "overall budget amount is adequate."

The Legislature will consider the spending package when it convenes on Jan. 14.

Kathy Dye can be reached at kdye@juneauempire.com.

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