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House Finance adds $2 million for Arctic Power

Posted: Monday, May 07, 2001

JUNEAU -- Arctic Power, the nonprofit group lobbying to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration, would receive $2 million under the House Finance Committee version of the state capital budget.

The Finance Committee added the money late Saturday night to the capital budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Finance co-chair Eldon Mulder, R-Anchorage, said U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young requested the money to help Arctic Power lobby for ANWR drilling as part of President George W. Bush's energy plan for the country.

''It has to be a sustained effort,'' Mulder said.

Rep. John Davies, D-Fairbanks, tried to amend the appropriation on the House floor Sunday to make it contingent on the oil industry matching the state's $2 million.

''It actually would help Arctic Power because it would double our contribution,'' Davies said.

Mulder argued against the amendment.

''This is first and foremost a state fight,'' Mulder said. ''We are attempting to put forward the will of the state of Alaska in advocating for opening ANWR, with or without the industry.''

Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz, D-Anchorage, noted the timing of discussion of the ANWR amendment -- just after the House defeated an amendment by Davies to add $2 million to the University of Alaska budget.

''We make a statement with every appropriation,'' Berkowitz said. ''What we're saying here is we're giving $2 million to the education of America, but we just turned down $2 million for the education of Alaskans.''

The amendment to require industry to match the ANWR appropriation failed 13-26.

Democrats made several failed attempts to add money to the budget. They tried to add several projects, such as new schools and major maintenance funding, that legislators fear will not make it into a proposed bond package being considered by the Senate Finance Committee.

Rep. Eric Croft, R-Anchorage, also proposed adding $1.5 million for the Power Cost Equalization Program which subsidizes high energy costs in rural Alaska. He said the money was needed because high fuel costs had used up funds in the program faster than expected.

Office of Management and Budget Director Annalee McConnell said the program will run out of money soon.

''We won't be able to make payments for June and probably much of this month as well,'' McConnell said.

Mulder argued that the administration knew it had just $15.7 million to pay for the program and should have made that last through the year.

''Everybody else's heating bills went up,'' Mulder said.

The Democrats' amendments all failed. The House is scheduled to vote on the capital budget Monday.



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