Alaskans can be a cantankerous lot, but there are a few issues on which they almost unanimously agree, among them: veterans deserve the state's support; roads could use some more attention; and education should be priority No. 1.
On Nov. 5, voters will have an opportunity to show their support for veterans, roads and education goes beyond lip service by approving the three bond propositions on the ballot.
Bonding Proposition A asks: Shall the State of Alaska unconditionally guarantee as a general obligation of the state the payment of principal and interest on revenue bonds of the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation issued in the principal amount of not more than $500,000,000 for the purpose of purchasing mortgages made for residences for qualifying veterans, as defined by law?
Our answer: Yes.
The bonds are required for the state to continue offering low-interest loans under the Veterans Mortgage Program.
This will be the fifth time voters have been asked to approve the bonds for the program. All previous bond measures were approved by margins ranging from 64 to 75 percent. Prior bond issues have not cost the state treasury anything.
Taking advantage of a federal program, AHFC has issued more than $2.1 billion in bonds for veterans since 1983. The program has allowed more than 12,600 qualified veterans to obtain lower-interest loans. Money raised by the bonds cannot be used for any purpose other than mortgage loans to qualified vets. Money received as veterans pay off their home loans is used to pay off the bonds.
Bonding Proposition B asks: Shall the State of Alaska issue state guaranteed transportation revenue anticipation bonds in the principal amount of not more than $102,805,000 for the purpose of paying the cost of accelerated Alaska transportation projects qualifying for federal highway aid, and shall the State of Alaska issue general obligation bonds in the principal amount of not more than $123,914,500 for the purpose of paying the cost of state transportation projects?
Our answer: Yes.
There are two important peninsula projects targeted to receive funds if the bond measure passes: the Kenai River Bridge and the North Kenai Spur Highway.
The bond measure would provide money for transportation projects all over the state in need of upgrades.
Bonding Proposition C asks: Shall the State of Alaska issue its general obligation bonds in the principal amount of not more than $236,805,441 for the purpose of paying the cost of design, construction and major maintenance of educational and museum facilities?
Again, our answer: Yes.
The bond issue is particularly important to the Kenai Peninsula because it will provide $3.8 million to both the Soldotna and Homer campuses of Kenai Peninsula College for renovation and expansion.
The bonds also will provide debt reimbursement up to 70 percent for Kenai Peninsula Borough School District construction and renovation projects.
Statewide, the bonds will provide money to take care of schools in dire need of maintenance. No matter where they live in Alaska, students deserve to attend school in safe, secure buildings.
The University of Alaska is slated to receive $61 million.
If Alaskans truly believe education is key to the state's future, they won't have trouble voting to approve this bond issue.
It's worth noting that Propositions B and C provide the first bond package for the state in more than 20 years. Voters last approved bonds in 1980 for fishery facilities, roads, prisons and other projects.
Transportation and school projects across Alaska are in need of repair and upgrades. The longer those projects wait, the more they will cost. A deteriorating infrastructure provides a poor foundation for the future.
It's time. On Nov. 5, voters will have the chance to show their support for veterans, roads and schools. We hope they will.
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