Education, Bridge Projects and Gas Pipeline in Budget
December 16, 2005
Delivering his fourth budget address, Murkowski said the state's fiscal picture has changed dramatically from 2002 when he entered office. In a speech to the Commonwealth North Forum at the Anchorage Marriott, Murkowski said this year's budget continues building the state's infrastructure while making good investments in quality education and resource development opportunities.
"We want to help Alaskans build a better future. I am confident that our continued investments in quality education and in resource development that creates job opportunities and a stable economy are key to reaching that goal," Murkowski said.
The governor proposes committing $565 million of the FY06 windfall to advance fund K-12 education by putting it in the Public Education Fund, created by the Legislature last session. The governor's budget also proposes setting aside $400 million of the windfall for investment in the proposed gas pipeline. Another $130 million would help meet other priority needs such as public safety, corrections, and pre-planning for the gas pipeline.
Governor Murkowski is also proposing a $90 million increase in the foundation formula for K-12 schools. If approved by the Legislature it would raise the per-pupil amount from $4,919 to $5,352.
The governor is proposing a 17 percent increase in funding to the University of Alaska system, including an expansion of the Alaska Scholars program. He also is proposing an increase in the number of grants available under the Alaska Advantage program, which provides needs-based grants to students in career programs where there is a shortage. The Alaska Scholars program would be expanded to offer free tuition to UA schools for high school students who graduate in the top 15 percent of their class. Currently, it covers tuition for those at the top 10 percent.
"This program has been a tremendous success as we've seen 98 percent of UA Scholars who graduated in the last five years stay in Alaska," Murkowski said.
In the area of transportation funding, the governor proposes the maximum amount of funding allowable for the Knik Arm Crossing and Gravina Island access projects, two proposed bridge projects intended to provide for community growth in Anchorage and Ketchikan respectively. Murkowski said he continues to support both projects.
Murkowski said the state rules limit the amount of federal funds that that can now be allocated toward these projects in any one-year. He said within this budget he is proposing spending the maximum allowed. The FY07 capital budget would set aside $94 million in federal funds for Knik Arm Crossing and $91 million from the same source for the Gravina project in Ketchikan.
These projects will move more slowly as a result of Congressional action, but Governor Murkowski said he will move them along as fast as he can.
We can blame it on Katrina, but these projects will move more slowly as a result of Congressional action said Murkowski. "I will move them along as fast as I can."
Murkowski will also propose full funding in FY07 for the Power Cost Equalization program and a supplemental budget request that fully funds the PCE program in FY06.
Governor Murkowski said he supports assisting local governments with increased retirement system costs and called on the Alaska Municipal League to identify a sustainable revenue source outside of the state's general fund to support such a program.
"This is a recurring obligation and we need a recurring and dependable way to pay for it other than the state's general fund," Murkowski said.
"This administration is staying the course we set for ourselves from day one. We continue to emphasize accountability in government," Murkowski said. "The private sector added new jobs in 2003 and 2004, primarily in construction and medical services fields and we expect another 9,000 jobs to be added in 2005 and 2006."
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