Senate approves $1.3 billion bill

Capital budget to cover school repairs, infrastructure upgrades

Posted: Wednesday, May 02, 2001

JUNEAU -- With a few parting shots from Democrats, the state Senate approved a $1.3 billion capital budget Tuesday.

Senators voted 14-6 along party lines to approve Senate Bill 29, which proposes spending $939 million in federal money, $111 million in state general fund money and $295 million from other sources such as Alaska communities and revenue-generating state agencies. More than two-thirds of the budget, $906 million, is devoted to transportation projects.

Democrats criticized the bill for its lack of school projects. Other than $750,000 for repairs at the state-operated boarding school in Sitka, Mount Edgecumbe High School, the measure contains little for schools.

Sen. Georgianna Lincoln, D-Rampart, said the lack of money for replacement or repair of schools, particularly in rural Alaska, is a huge hole in the capital budget. Many rural schools are dilapidated and unfit for learning, she said.

''We can no longer educate today's students for tomorrow's world in yesterday's schools,'' Lincoln said, quoting an elder she talked to last year at an Alaska Federation of Natives meeting.

Republicans on Monday rejected proposed amendments to add schools to the construction bill, citing their inclusion in other legislation. The House has approved school projects in a bill that proposes selling bonds backed by money expected from settlement of a lawsuit against tobacco companies.

Senate Finance Committee Co-chairman Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, said maintenance of state facilities was a priority for authors of the budget. He said they also tried to pay for the highest needs identified by state departments.

As for rural Alaska, he said, about $200 million is aimed directly at villages, $55 million is allocated for village safe water projects, and hundreds of millions more is categorized for unincorporated areas under ''statewide needs.''

''On this floor and in committee we hear a lot of rhetoric that would ... have you believe we don't give anything to rural Alaska,'' Kelly said. ''It simply isn't true. We do.''

The capital projects bill could come up for a reconsideration vote today before moving to the House.

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