Alaska Legislature passes capital budget, keeps savings accounts filled

Published: Jul. 29, 2019 at 12:02 PM AKDT
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After a third vote in the Alaska House of Representatives, members approved a capital budget that funds construction projects across the state.

As the $172 million legislation involves drawing from the Constitutional Budget Reserve (CBR), it required a three-quarters supermajority of 30 members of the House to approve. The bill passed 31-7 with two members excused.

Without the bill, the State of Alaska could stand to lose nearly a $1 billion in federal funds used for highway construction and airport maintenance.

Lawmakers in Juneau had originally said the deadline to capture those federal funds was July 31. Staff from Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan’s office had researched how those are funds are captured and found the deadline was actually in 2020.

Members of the House majority stood one-by-one arguing that it was irresponsible to wait and pass the bill, particularly as 15,000 members of the construction industry depended on those funds.

Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage said the message from Alaska's congressional delegation was clear: “Don’t leave a single federal dollar on the table and don’t wait.”

Senate Bill 2002 also contains a

provision that would ensure dozens of state savings accounts are not emptied due to “the sweep.”

The accounts that are set to be drained include the Power Cost Equalization fund (PCE) that helps rural Alaskans with their power bills. The Higher Education Investment fund that provides scholarships for college students was also set to be emptied.

Some members of the House minority stood in opposition to passing the bill. Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, said the capital budget should have been part of a package that also included the Permanent Fund dividend.

“Nothing has changed since the last time we voted,” said Rep. Sharon Jackson, R-Eagle River, who described that passing the bill did not involve compromise.

SB 2002 had a long path to pass through the Alaska Legislature. A different way of funding the capital budget was voted down during the regular session in May with members of the minority using it as leverage to deliver a full statutory PFD.

The funding sources for the bill were changed during the second special session, it passed unanimously through the Senate before its amended funding sources were voted down twice in the House.

The legislation will now head to the governor’s desk for his consideration and signature.

This is developing news and will be updated.