It was a frustrating year in Juneau, Sen. Tom Wagoner told Soldotna area business leaders Tuesday afternoon.
"We didn't get a lot of things accomplished we wanted to," he said, but he did list a number of bills that successfully made their way through the state Legislature.
Referring to a newsletter his staff distributed before the regular business lunch of the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce, Wagoner, R-Kenai, provided a wrap-up of the just-ended legislative session and said property tax relief was among the biggest accomplishments of the legislators.
Wagoner also will present the legislative wrap-up to members of the Kenai Chamber of Commerce at noon today at Paradisos.
"If the (Kenai Peninsula) borough sees to, it can double the amount of relief it can give property owners on their personal house," Wagoner said.
Senate Bill 136 and House Bill 241 increase a residential property tax exemption that has remained at $10,000 for 30 years.
Wagoner said he and Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, worked together to change a 30-year law to provide tax relief for their constituents.
The exemption is offered in five Alaska boroughs, including the Kenai Peninsula, and will be implemented by popular vote once the borough assembly passes an ordinance placing it on the ballot.
Wagoner also told those in attendance he was happy to see fellow senators reject a bill he said sought to fund "pork barrel" projects.
"In the newsletter, you'll see (Sen.) Lyman Huffman said, 'There are some tight-fisted people around here.' I'm glad to be one of those tight-fisted," Wagoner said.
He went on to say the proposed bill purported to provide money for the state's schools, but also included about $10 million in pork barrel projects, such as improving harbors and erosion control.
"This was a pure pork $10 million set aside to help his campaign," Wagoner said.
He expressed disappointment that the senate did not pass a constitutional spending limit and said he would not be in favor of supporting a proposed percent of market value change to the permanent fund without the constitutional limit.
"The Legislature will spend what they have the ability to spend. There is no restraint," Wagoner said.
In the newsletter article about the POMV, Wagoner said, "Many of you have asked that a fiscal plan be formulated, and I believe that the first step in such a spending plan is determining a spending cap.
"As families, we all do that and I believe it is reasonable to expect our government to do the same."
Wagoner referred to SB 50-HB 57, passed last year, as the Agrium bill. It allows the commissioner of Natural Resources to enter into an agreement with Agrium and offer reduced royalty on natural gas.
"If we lose Agrium, our economy is going to take a big hit," he said.
"All they want to know is what they're going to pay up front for natural gas."
He said some critics had accused him of catering to industry, but he said it didn't cost the state anything.
Another bill affecting the peninsula, SB 190, was passed and alters the Kenai River Special Management Area by adding 550 acres of land acquired through Exxon Valdez Oil Spill funds.
"The bill also revised the KRSMA board (which) is supposed to be a citizens advisory board," Wagoner said.
Currently eight of the 15 board members are federal or state agency representatives, he said.
The senate bill makes agency representatives ex officio members, so KRSMA returns to being more of a citizen's board.
"We took everybody but the borough, Kenai and Soldotna (representatives) off," Wagoner said.
Another priority during the legislative year was getting natural gas to Cook Inlet, according to the senator.
"Every place we could get a statement the governor, Lisa Murkowski we had one tune: gas to Cook Inlet," Wagoner said.
A bill passed by the senate now requires the Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority to consider equally routes for bringing gas from Prudhoe Bay to tidewater at Prince William Sound as well as to tidewater at Cook Inlet.
He said another bill that would put a natural gas spur line through the Alaska Railroad corridor to the peninsula was introduced this year.
"We'll work that bill next year but having it introduced will make it easier," he said.
Other issues the senator reported on were the defeat of a bill to allow Anchorage to have a gambling casino and the failure to pass a tobacco tax.
He also said peninsula legislators were successful in passing both the first and the last bill of the session.
The first was Chenault's HB 209, which allows for property tax adjustments on property affected by a disaster, and the second was Wagoner's SB 382 clarifying legislative intent on replats, which allows the Soldotna bridge project to go forward.
"On Thursday, I got a call that the judge in Anchorage dismissed the lawsuit on the bridge project. That saved the state between $1.2 and $1.5 million," he said.
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