Editor's Note: The Kenai Peninsula's legislative delegation has been invited to keep residents informed of what's happening in Juneau in this column, which runs weekly during the legislative session. Peninsula lawmakers take turns writing the column.
The Legislature will end its 2002 session Tuesday, with one possible session on subsistence already being discussed and the possibility of another to deal with Alaska's fiscal health.
The House of Representatives has passed to the Senate five bills, I am sure most of you are familiar with, dealing with the finances of the state. They are House Bill 303 (fair tax), House Bill 304 (use of permanent fund earnings), House Bill 20 (use of permanent fund earnings), House Bill 3 (percent payout of oil royalties) and House Bill 225 (alcohol tax). Whether you agree or disagree with any or all of these bills, they are an attempt to address the future health of Alaska's economy and potential growth. There were 40 representatives who could not agree on all of the bills.
As I write this article, the conference committee made up of three senators and three House members are meeting formally and informally to deal with the operating budget and try to come to agreement; hopefully, holding the line on spending to the 2002 level.
The House has forwarded to the Senate three other significant proposals: House Bill 524 -- a $153 million bond bill to fund K-12 schools, the university and museum construction around the state to be on the November ballot for you to vote on; House Bill 525 -- a bill to address deferred maintenance bond package for K-12 schools, the university, harbors and state buildings totaling $199 million to be voted on in November; and House Bill 528 -- a debt reimbursement package totaling $87 million for schools, harbors and some rural electric power and transmission projects.
One piece of legislation I introduced last year was House Bill 175. This bill has been sent to the Senate and includes five railbelt energy projects from Seldovia to Fairbanks valued at $43 million. The legislation also incorporates setting up a $76 million dollar fund and securitizing it within the assets of Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, creating the revenue stream to support a revenue bond package for the projects and, when they are paid off, be able to continue to do the same thing in perpetuity (these are 1983 funds, not new funds).
The Capital Budget is still a document in the making and will be in the area of value of $114 million.
The above funding, along with federal funding for highway projects, missile defense projects and private projects will bring the total state construction dollars for the 2002-2003 season to over $4 billion.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge debate appears to be over for a while, and the gas pipeline future is still being discussed by Congress, the Alaska Legislature and the industry.
This article is due a few days before the end of session or I could give you more up-to-date information. I must say that a lot happens in the last few days, so stay tuned. The 22nd Legislature has been a very active session, not without contentious issues and lively debate. I believe we have all learned and experienced a great deal.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the Peninsula Clarion for allowing legislators representing the Kenai Peninsula the opportunity to let our constituency know what is happening in Juneau. I appreciate the opportunity to represent my district and Alaska, and I look forward to being back home soon!
Rep. Ken Lancaster is a Republican from Soldotna.
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