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Capital budget includes $66 million for peninsula, Kodiak projects

Kenai Peninsula cashes in

Posted: Friday, May 27, 2005

The $2.16 million fiscal year 2006 state capital budget adopted Wednesday by Juneau lawmakers eager to go home apparently made winners out of the Kenai Peninsula's three major legislative districts, where a host of nuts-and-bolts public facilities projects will share just over $66 million.

But while House Districts 33, 34 and 35 did well, so did their neighbors around the state, all of which added up to one of the largest capital budgets in years. It included about $1.1 billion in federal money and more than $700 million in state funds and was adopted by a Legislature dominated by Republicans, most of whom went to Juneau bent on curbing state government spending.

"It's pretty big, we all realize that," District 34 Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, said Thursday. "But over the years, we haven't had the ability to pick up some of the projects people thought were important, the school maintenance and road work and other things the districts need. Yes, it's still fairly high, but those needs somewhat justifies its size."

District 33 Rep. Kurt Olson, R-Kenai, said he thought the capital bill spent too much. He called it bloated. But that was only a relative view, he said, given the spending figures the Senate had first sent over to the House.

"It's better than what we started with, which was about $1 billion (in state expenditures)," he said. "We got that down."

Olson said the peninsula projects all were necessary, and noted that many had waited for years for funding. He regretted, however, that all the money comes in one year because it makes it more likely some projects will go to contractors from Outside because there may not be enough Alaska contractors to handle all the work.

"We might have done better if the money had been spread out over a couple of years," he said.

Chenault said Gov. Frank Murkowski still could go through and redline some capital appropriations, but he did not expect the governor would veto much of anything.

"We worked with the (governor's office) and Senate and crafted lots of things that are in the capital budget. I think he'll leave the majority of it alone," he said.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough will get $650,000 for costs associated with hosting the 2006 Arctic Winter Games, as well as $290,000 to be used for equipment grants to schools.

A long list of borough school maintenance projects will split numerous appropriations totaling roughly $2.5 million that will, among other things, pay for kitchen upgrades, roof repairs, gym renovations, track and field repairs, bus turnarounds and parking facilities.

Road and sewer improvements got a shot in the arm in the city of Kenai, which is in line for $790,000, as well as Soldotna, set to get $665,000.

The budget includes $175,000 for North Peninsula Recreation Service Area's youth facility, a $436,600 set-aside for design of a water and sewer project for Ninilchik's Old Village town site, and $336,000 for Phase 2 design of Homer's water improvement project.

Some appropriation levels were significantly boosted in the final version of the capital budget.

For instance, Homer's public library construction project, originally in line for $100,000, will get $1 million instead. The Homer campus of Kenai Peninsula College, which has an ongoing expansion project, will receive an unexpected $750,000 more toward that project.

Commenting on those appropriations, as well as $2 million sent to Seward for dock work, Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, who represents the lower Kenai Peninsula, said, "Oh, it's good to be the majority leader."

Other last-minute increases to the capital appropriations bill included more money for Homer Electric Association. The $25,000 in General Fund money HEA got for its beetle-kill tree removal was enhanced by $250,000 in state debt retirement money now earmarked for right-of-way clearing.

Other appropriations in-cluded $1.25 million in state funds for deferred maintenance of the Alaska Vocational Technical Center in Seward, and $4.175 million in federal money for a new multiuse building at the Homer Airport.

State road projects also saw significant sums make it thro-ugh the legislative process, including $11 million for Kalifornsky Beach Road rehabilitation, $5 million for Kenai Spur Highway rehabilitation, and $15 million (in federal funds) for rehabilitating the portion of the Sterling Highway linking Skilak Lake Road to Sterling.

For a more detailed look at projects in House District 33, 34 or 35, or for anywhere in the state, visit the state Web site at www.legfin.state.ak.us/.

Before adjourning the special session, lawmakers also approved a $4.96 billion state operating budget for Fiscal Year 2006, which begins July 1. That budget included $2.2 billion in general fund spending.



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