Proposed capital budget doesn't add up, says Wagoner

Posted: Wednesday, April 30, 2003

If Gov. Frank Murkowski's proposed capital spending plan for fiscal year 2004 passes as is, Kenai Peninsula state election districts would be in line for $14.5 million in project funding aimed mostly at utilities, highways and buildings.

But that's not much on a per capita basis when compared to other parts of the state, Sen. Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai, said Monday. Wagoner's Senate District Q, which includes House Districts 33 and 34, would receive about $210 per resident, according to an analysis of the governor's capital budget. In comparison, the Fairbanks area would see about $1,500 per resident, while the Matanuska-Susitna Borough would get funded at a rate of roughly $550 per person, according to the analysis.

"Boy, it looks pretty skinny," Wagoner said. "There's very little money in it. We didn't get treated very well on a per-capita basis."

Wagoner acknowledged that the higher per-capita figures for other parts of Alaska may reflect high-ticket items, major road projects and the like, that are to be built in those areas, which would tend to drive up the per-capita figures.

The governor's $1.35 billion capital spending plan is written into House Bill 150 and Senate Bill 100, measures currently before their respective finance committees. Roughly three-fourths of the budget would be federal funds. Included in that plan for the peninsula are the following projects outlined by department:

Department of

Environmental Conservation

Kenai Peninsula Borough Solid Waste Management Study, $60,000;

Seward Water Source Study, $99,800;

Soldotna Wastewater Treatment Plant, $1,485,000;

Seward 3rd Ave. Water Main Upgrade, $1,470,000;

Nikolaevsk Water and Sewer Project, $1,799,900;

Voznesenka Safe Water Expan-sion Study, $100,000;

Ninilchik Water and Sewer Study, $100,000;

Department of Fish and Game

Kenai River Sonar Side Bunkhouse and Lab, $350,000;

Department of Transportation and Public Facilities

Seward Highway MP 0-8 reconstruction, $7,500,000;

Sterling Highway MP 161.4 erosion protection, $50,000;

Municipal Capital Matching Grants (one-to-one match)

Homer Public Library, $101,242;

KPB Road Improvement Pro-gram, $495,022;

Kenai Street Improvements, $141,893;

Seldovia Community Building Renovation, $25,000;

Seward Street Department Equipment, $74,198; and

Soldotna Creek Park New Restrooms, $100,598.

Wagoner said he hopes most of those projects included by the governor survive, but added that he and Reps. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, and Kelly Wolf, R-Kenai, have drawn up a list of projects worth another $3.5 million that they would like added to the final capital budget document.

The list includes such things as $500,000 for the 2006 Arctic Winter Games, $360,000 for the Cook Inlet salmon branding project, $107,000 for Kenai Peninsula College and $50,000 for a Central Emergency Services and E-911 dispatch project.

Other proposed projects include in Ninilchik, safety paths, a community water study and improvements to the fairgrounds; and in Nikiski, senior center sanitary facilities, a fire service area ambulance and a senior housing planning grant.

Chenault said he hopes to see more peninsula projects end up in the capital budget.

"We have put in all our requests, and naturally some don't match those in the governor's proposed capital budget," he said. "I'd like to see some of the governor's requests go through and some of the things we feel are needed in our communities to keep our communities going."

Chenault said it is hard to predict now what the final capital budget will look like.

Efforts to get comment from Rep. Wolf by late Tuesday afternoon were unsuccessful.

Chris Knight, an aide to Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, said Seaton has proposed adding several projects to the capital-spending plan from his District 35, which covers the lower Kenai Peninsula and Seward.

Seaton has asked that certain existing funds be reappropriated and language broadened to give Homer more flexibility in acquiring land and designing and building a new library. He also wants $25,000 reappropriated for the Homer Hockey Association, which is working to build a hockey rink. Knight said those should be "no-brainers."

Another project Seaton wants added would give the Kachemak Heritage Land Trust spending authority to buy land for ski trails. The $450,000 appropriation would require no state money, Knight said.

Other proposed projects would require state funding and are likely to compete for limited dollars with projects from around the state, Knight said. Among those are a water and wastewater master plan for Homer, an X-ray machine for Seldovia, a fire station off Lowell Point near Seward, money for land for a new campus for the Kachemak Bay Branch of Kenai Peninsula College, and an emergency medical vehicle for Nanwalek.

While there is plenty of talk about lengthening capital project wish lists, Wagoner said he and some of legislative colleagues are tossing around an idea that might qualify as downright foreign to Alaska's legislative history.

"There is some talk about doing without a capital budget," Wagoner said. "We could use the funds on the other side (the operating budget). That would make the Constitu-tional Budget Reserve draw-down more in line with the governor's recommendation."

Wagoner said foregoing some capital spending would help ensure adequate spending for education.

He cautioned, however, that doing without a capital budget is "just talk" for now. Rep. Mike Chenault said it is an interesting idea, but he added that he would be concerned about where and when such freed-up funds might be spent in the education arena.

"I would want to make sure it was going to K-12," he said.

The University of Alaska, while a worthy cause, has seen increased budgets in recent years, he said. K-12 education needs the money more.

"We have got to get our K-12 people educated to where they can go to college," he said.

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