Legislature adjourns after approving capital budget, half of Juneau Access funds diverted

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - The third special legislative session ended up being a one day affairs as hoped for by Senate and House leaders and it resulted in passage of a capital budget.

    Following deliberations in both bodies that included the Senate refusing to accept  House changes to Senate Bill 23 and representatives refusing to recede from their changes, a conference committee was appointed by the presiding officers.

    The conference committee convened shortly after one p.m. and wrapped up its work hammering out differences in less than a half hour.

    Both bodies convened about an hour after that.  The Senate adjourned before four and the House shortly after 4:30.

    The vote in the Senate was 15 to 4 in favor of the spending plan with Juneau Senator Dennis Egan in the majority.  He did not support splitting the Juneau Access funding though.   "I held my nose and I voted for it because, believe me, I want $1.2 Billion worth of capital construction projects to go into this budget or we're going to be in real deep trouble." Egan added that a lot of the projects are in his district.

    The House vote was 27 to 13.   Mendenhall  Valley Representative Justin Parish voted "no" because of the provision that diverted  half of the Juneau Access funding to other projects in Northern Lynn Canal.   He said he was able to protect half the funding.  An amendment he co-sponsored to restore full  funding failed.  

    In the future if a project to build a road out of Juneau is approved, Parish said he hoped the votes and funding will be found to make it happen.

    Juneau Representative Sam Kito, who voted for the bill, said there was nothing for Juneau Access in the House plan. He said through the capital budget negotiations with the Senate the House conceded half of the Juneau Access money that had been designated and allowed that to stay designated for the project while taking $21 Million, the other half, and allowing that amount to be utilized for Northern Lynn Canal access.

    The measure includes $20 million for oil and gas tax credits, which would bring the total for credit pay outs to $77 million this year, the statutory minimum.

    It has another $7 million for a replacement school for rural Kivalina.   There was an initial report that about $4 Million for the school was diverted from Juneau Access funds.  Representative Kito says that is not the case and added that was a drafting error.

    It also includes $8 million for community assistance, which would bring that program's funding to $38 million.

    Federal dollars pay for most of the budget package.

    Passage comes three months behind schedule. The capital budget had been a casualty of legislative bickering over the best way to address the state's multi-billion dollar deficit.

    Governor Walker issued a statement following the Legislature's adjournment to say he's pleased with the capital budget.  He said Alaskans can rest assured that construction and maintenance projects can continue, and jobs will be provided for them, their friends, and neighbors.

    He added that he looks forward to signing the bill prior to August 1.



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