Legislature Passes FY12 Capital Budget
May 16, 2011
Saturday, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 46, the state’s FY12 Capital Budget, including numerous projects for Senate District A. Senator Bert Stedman released a list of projects in the budget that will benefit Southeast Alaska.
“This budget achieves two of my major goals, saving for the future and addressing Southeast Alaska’s infrastructure needs,” said Senator Stedman. “Capital spending helps move our economy forward and lowers the cost of living for Alaskans.”
As Co-Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Stedman was responsible for drafting the Capital Budget and presenting it to the Senate. Stedman represents District A which includes Ketchikan and Sitka.
“The Capital Budget is one of the most important documents the Legislature considers, “said Stedman. “Alaskans can be confident this year’s budget is targeted, and is the product a thorough and deliberate public process.”
The budget funds $3.18 billion in statewide projects, including $1.1 billion in federal funds. The Senate moved aggressively this year to address the high cost of energy facing Alaskans, including $486 million for energy infrastructure projects in the budget.
“We are extremely fortunate high oil prices will allow us to save for our future and improve the economy and quality of life for all Alaskans.” said Stedman.
Senate Bill 46 includes a number of important projects for Southeast Alaska – expansion of hydroelectric projects in Ketchikan and Sitka, major waterfront improvements in Petersburg and Wrangell, clinics for Prince of Wales Island, infrastructure improvements at the Ketchikan Shipyard, and vocational education facilities in Ketchikan and Sitka.
The bill also deposits $1.1 billion into state savings, bringing the Legislature’s total savings this session to $2.5 billion.
District 1 Representative Kyle Johansen (R-Ketchikan) said in a prepared statement, “I am very pleased with our overall success in convincing the House of Representatives of the importance of our District One projects, Southeast regional projects and statewide projects important to all Alaskans. Our delegation worked closely, as usual, to advance and protect projects important to our constituents."
At the close of the legislative session Governor Sean Parnell said, “While I share Alaskans’ frustration that the Legislature went into overtime over unconstitutional budget language pushed by the Senate Majority, I am pleased about some accomplishments that will foster economic growth and create opportunities for Alaska families.”
Performance Scholarships Funded
The high school graduating class of 2011 is now the first eligible to earn and receive performance scholarships ranging from $2,379 to $4,755 for Alaska post-secondary education and job training. Funding for the Alaska Performance Scholarship is included in the FY 2012 budget. The Legislature also set aside $400 million for a sustainable funding mechanism for the Alaska Performance Scholarship. The governor’s bill establishing the scholarship fund passed the House unanimously and is pending action in the Senate in 2012.
Safe Homes/Strong Families
Governor Parnell’s legislation strengthening laws related to the sexual exploitation of children and stalking received unanimous support in both houses.
The governor continues to work toward the goal of providing State Trooper or Village Public Safety Officer (VPSO) presence in every community that requests it. All 15 VPSO positions requested in the governor’s budget were funded. With the added positions, Alaska will have more than 100 VPSOs stationed in rural Alaska communities.
The Legislature also approved year two of the governor’s initiative to eliminate domestic violence and sexual assault in Alaska. The budget includes over $8 million for prevention, investigation, enforcement, and services to victims and survivors.
Comprehensive Energy Package Enacted
Governor Parnell’s comprehensive energy package proposed, which includes $65.7 million and statutory authorization for the Susitna Hydro Electric Project, was approved by the Legislature and added to.
The energy package includes funding for weatherization and home energy rebate programs to help Alaskans make their homes more energy efficient; Renewable Energy Fund grants targeted to projects in areas with the highest energy costs in the state; hydroelectric projects and generation and transmission line projects; funding for the Power Cost Equalization Program; and funds for rural power system upgrades and bulk fuel storage to bring down the cost of diesel power generation.
The Legislature approved the governor’s request for funding of major transportation infrastructure in the state, such as roads to resources, including the road to Umiat, and access to the Ambler mining district. And, the Legislature also funded the governor’s request for major port projects including Anchorage, Point Mackenzie, and Skagway.
Governor Parnell’s major economic development legislation that would help bring a jack-up rig to Cook Inlet and improve the Skagway Ore Terminal received unanimous support. The legislation allows the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority to invest in a corporation or LLC, which allows greater flexibility in its investment opportunities.
The governor also won approval of legislation adding acreage to more than double the size of the Southeast State Forest, creating more jobs in the timber industry.
Additionally, Alaska’s tourism marketing efforts will continue drawing visitors and bringing revenue to Alaska’s small and mid-sized businesses.
Saving for the Future
The governor commended the Legislature for joining him in his call to save at least $2.5 billion in surplus revenue including $400 million for the Alaska Performance Scholarship fund; $200 million for the Alaska Gasline Development Project; and Representative Stoltze’s idea to apply $200 million to buy down debt costs.
Work Remains to Increase Oil Production
Governor Parnell’s bill to increase oil production and reform oil taxes passed the House of Representatives with in-depth, comprehensive debate and an open public process. Lower oil taxes will make Alaska more competitive and attract billions of dollars in new investment, creating thousands of new jobs and ensuring the continued economic and operational viability of the pipeline. This session, the governor announced a new goal for Alaska of one million barrels of oil production per day through the Trans Alaska Pipeline System within 10 years.
“We still have work to do to increase oil production and I remain committed to this goal while lessening our nation’s dependence on foreign oil,” Governor Parnell said.
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