House approves school bonds bill

Posted: Sunday, April 23, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- The state House has approved its version of a capital construction bond package for schools, the University of Alaska and harbors but the measure may come up again on Monday.

House Bill 281 proposes selling $269.8 million in revenue bonds backed by Alaska's share of tobacco litigation money. The measures direct $165.8 million to construction or repair of public schools, including new schools for Pilot Station, Chevak, Kotlik, Elim and Manokotak. The bill also includes $72 million for University of Alaska projects and $32 million for harbors.

The measure was approved with little debate, in contrast to a floor session Thursday, when Republican majority lawmakers rejected attempts to add projects. The House rejected amendments to build five more rural schools and pay for most projects on the Department of Education's major maintenance list.

Rep. Allen Kemplen, D-Anchorage, objected to using money from tobacco settlements for schools and harbors.

''They should be going to some health-related expenditures,'' Kemplen said.

He said the bill did not cover enough of the capital needs for schools. He also said the state should use general obligation bonds for the projects, which require approval at in a statewide election.

Putting capital projects before voters demands educating them about the importance of the projects and makes them part of the process, Kemplen said. That will not be the case with revenue bonds, Kemplen said.

''They come to the perspective that the Legislature does what it wants,'' Kemplen said.

The bill was approved 25-13. Rep. Ethan Berkowitz, D-Anchorage, requested his vote be reconsidered and the bill could be on the House floor again Monday for amendments or a final vote.



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