Dual Bills Address Schools, the University and Roads, Ports & Harbors; Two Separate Bills Appropriating Revenues to Fund Bond Redemption Sub Account Await Vote
Juneau -- Thursday, the Senate passed two General Obligation Bond packages. The first would fund capital needs of elementary and secondary schools and the university system. The second bond bill would fund roads, ports and harbors across Alaska.
"These two proposals, cumulatively, fund $438.5 million toward some of this state's most critical needs," said Senate Finance Co-Chair John Torgerson. "It's a tandem package. One G.O. bill will cover the pressing needs of the University and schools. The other bill addresses roads, ports and harbors. This is a wide-ranged, forward looking approach at building Alaska's critical needs."
Alaska elementary and secondary schools and the university receive approximately $237.5 million under the larger of the two bond proposals, SB 310. It funds projects ranging from a roof replacement for Auke Bay Elementary School to remodeling the St. George School on Pribilof Island. One high priority project, the Kashunamiut - Chevak school replacement, would receive over $28 million.
Nearly $72 million in funding would go to the University of Alaska campuses in Fairbanks, Anchorage and Juneau. "Alaskans statewide are focused on improving the quality of life in this state and a key ingredient in this regard is improving the university's capital structures," said Senator Gary Wilken (R-Fairbanks), a member of the Senate Finance Committee. "Adding to the facilities of the university is good. We also need to maintain what we have. Nearly half the funding goes to deferred maintenance for significant, long-term capital repairs on existing university facilities."
This bond also covers construction of the UAA's Consortium Library for $36 million. "Continued accreditation rides on the excellence of a university's library. Funding here is essential," said Senate Finance Co-Chair Sean Parnell.
The second bond bill, SB 311, seeks nearly $201.8 million in funding for roads, ports and harbors across Alaska. Of this amount, $166.6 million would go for road projects. A significant amount, $65 million, would go to reconstruction and construction projects in Anchorage on Raspberry, Dowling Abbott Loop and Tudor Roads. Road funding would extend to projects in Emmonak to Barrow, Wrangell to Unalakleet.
In addition to roads, this bill provides $35 million towards this state's ports and harbors. "Not including islands, this state has 6640 miles of coastline -- more than the entire coastline of the lower 48 states," said Torgerson. "A G.O. bond package would be incomplete if it failed to address these facilities." Funding would address transfer plans for 11 harbors from Ketchikan to Nome and include feasibility studies in Ketchikan and Perryville and $2.9 million for the Seward Harbor expansion.
Still awaiting consideration in the Senate are two additional bills that would establish a special sub account in the Earnings Reserve account of the Permanent Fund by moving $400 million from the Constitutional Budget Reserve Account to fund general obligation bond payments if approved by the voters in fall 2000.
SB 312 would establish a special sub account in the earnings reserve account from money appropriated from the CBR. This bill could provide a new funding source to future legislatures for paying indebtedness on the general obligation bond projects that Alaskans may approve this fall. Interest earned on money placed in the sub account may be appropriated to make all required debt payments on general obligation bonds of the state if voters approve them in 2000.
SB 313, would appropriate $400 million from the budget reserve to be invested in a special sub account in the Permanent Fund Earnings Reserve account. The bill also authorizes the direct deposit of $400 million into the constitutionally protected corpus of the Permanent Fund in the year 2020.
"Throughout the process of debating a G.O. bond package, I was concerned about finding a funding source so that future generations of Alaskans are not strapped with debt service," said Torgerson. "By taking money that the legislature would otherwise appropriate for state spending, and placing it into the sub account, we make our money work for us. This is building Alaska, and, best of all, when the bonds are paid off, we keep the principal."
The general obligation bond bills SB 310 and 311 head to the House for consideration. If approved by the Legislature and the Governor, they would be placed on the ballot in November's statewide elections.
= John Torgerson, 46 K = John Torgerson, 48 K