Minority Democrats say they want more for education, veterans and PCE

Posted: Sunday, May 12, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- Minority Democrats say they want more for schools, veterans and power subsidies to rural communities in the closing days of this legislative session.

While Republicans control both houses of the Legislature, it's a good chance that the minority will get some of their demands since they hold the key votes to close the session and allow lawmakers to go home.

Democrats said the final push of this year's legislative session -- which is scheduled to end on Tuesday -- will include ''kids, vets, PCE.''

They want a school construction plan that includes 19 rural schools worth about $200 million and they want $23 million more pumped into the state's school foundation formula.

Senate Republicans proposed adding $12 million in education spending this year through the state's learning opportunity grant program.

Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, said adding $23 million into the state's foundation formula would ensure that rural schools receive more money based on the cost of providing education in remote areas.

Democrats also want $15.7 million more for the state's Power Cost Equalization program, which is an endowment created to help provide energy subsidies to rural areas where power costs are high.

Lawmakers are negotiating a $2.2 billion general fund budget for next fiscal year and a separate proposal to float about $488 million in general obligation bonds for construction projects.

Democrats also called on GOP lawmakers to take up a list of veterans bills backed by Gov. Tony Knowles, including a measure to allow veterans to receive a housing preference in Alaska Pioneers' Homes.

The state Department of Revenue estimates the state will have an $826 million budget deficit this year that will grow to $963 million by next fiscal year.

Republicans cannot achieve the necessary three-quarters' vote to use the state's $2.4 billion Constitutional Budget Reserve to make up the shortfall without Democrat votes.

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