Supplemental budget includes peninsula projects

Posted: Sunday, March 09, 2008

When the Alaska Senate passed a supplemental budget package Thursday restoring more than $54 million in general fund capital spending vetoed by Gov. Sarah Palin last year, they included several projects here on the Kenai Peninsula.

Those included renovations to ailing public buildings, improvements to popular recreation areas and facilities, upgrades to boat and harbor facilities, and other public works projects.

The Supplemental Budget bill, SB 256, now goes to the House, so the restored projects are not yet a done deal.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor John Williams was unavailable for comment Friday, but administrative aide Bruce Richards said the mayor definitely supported the Senate's action.

"These were all vetted projects that have gone through a public process, but didn't make it past the governor last year," he said.

Richards noted that there was "a lot of tension" between the Legislature and the administration over the vetoed projects.

The supplemental budget also sends $2.6 billion to the Constitutional Budget Reserve Fund and another $1 billion to the Statutory Budget Reserve Fund. That might make spending money on the restored projects legislatively easier, he said.

Borough officials have yet to poll the peninsula's House delegation to see if they support the Senate's action, Richards said. Whether Gov. Sarah Palin will agree with the Legislature if the House concurs or veto the projects again remains to be seen.

In a March 5 letter to Senate President Lyda Green, R-Wasilla, Palin expressed "my deep concern" with the Senate's action. She noted that her vetoes had been made because the "overall level of government spending that was too high."

She said shifting more than $51 million to the FY 2008 budget via the supplemental bill would encourage greater spending next year. She said she would not permit that.

Palin said she viewed the Senate's decision to include the vetoed projects was counterproductive to efforts by the administration to work with the Legislature to establish overall spending targets.

"Quite frankly," Palin said, "our offer to move past last year's process and focus on achieving a mutually acceptable level of spending for the next year has been ignored."

Peninsula projects that would be restored if the House concurs and the governor agrees include:

* Roof renovation for Friendship Mission in Nikiski, $70,000;

* Kachemak Ski Club: Ohlson Mountain ski hill improvements, $89,000;

* Kasilof Regional Historical Association Inc.'s McLane Center and Museum renovation, $50,000;

* Nikiski Community Council: signage, $75,000;

* Voznesenka Village Corp.'s playground improvements for Voznesenka and Kachemak Selo, $30,000;

* City of Kenai: boat launch parking area paving, $70,000;

* Kenai Peninsula Borough: diagnostic hospital equipment (South Peninsula Hospital), $26,500;

* Kenai Peninsula Borough: Nikiski Community Recreation Center modifications, $475,000;

* Kenai Peninsula Borough: Nikiski Fire signage, Stations 1 and 2, $55,000;

* Kenai Peninsula Borough: Nikiski Pool sand filters and surge tank replacement, $300,000;

* City of Seldovia: boat haul-out trailer, $45,000;

* City of Seldovia: smolt stocking for Seldovia Slough, $25,000;

* City of Seward: waterfront pavilion, $195,000; and

* Ninilchik water system development, $100,000.

The supplemental budget also included grants to municipalities that can be expended at the discretion of the assembly or city councils.

The money recognizes past employer contribution payments to retirement programs above the required rate, and offsets the implementation of a uniform contribution rate for all public employees' retirement system members at 22 percent.

They included:

* Kenai Peninsula Borough, $702,515;

* City of Seward, $378,969; and

* City of Soldotna, $1,276,229.

Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, who co-chairs the House Finance Committee, said Friday that he expects at least some of the projects restored by the Senate to survive in the House, including some of the peninsula projects. Some, like the Friendship Mission roof project, have already been completed with other funds, and could be culled, he said.

"There's a question whether some of those projects still meet the governor's criteria and whether there are enough votes to pass in the House. It's pretty squishy," he said. "Some lawmakers don't think we ought to do it."

The House Finance Committee will get its look at the Supplemental Budget on Monday, Chenault said.

Hal Spence can be reached at hspence@ptialaska.net.



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