Capital budget includes funding for Chugiak-Eagle River projects
I am pleased to provide you this update after the adjournment of the 28th Alaska Legislature. As you may have heard, we went five days over the standard 90-day session, but accomplished great things during our extended time in Juneau.
At the start of this legislative session the Senate Majority set three major goals that we hoped to accomplish; improve education; control state spending; and secure affordable energy. I am happy to report we achieved all three of our goals and am very proud of the work we did this session. I believe that Alaska’s future is full of promise and opportunity through the comprehensive changes we made with various pieces of legislation.
Below are highlights of the major pieces of legislation we passed, as well as my personal legislation I introduced and passed this session.
Education Package (HB 278)
The legislature chose to fund education through two channels this year. We increased the current Base Student Allocation (BSA) $150 million over the next three years, as well as funded education outside of the BSA with $150 million. The current BSA is $5,680. The breakdown of the funding levels over the next three years: In 2015, the BSA increases $150; the additional funding outside the BSA will make the overall increase the equivalent of a $348, bringing the total to $6,028. In 2016, the BSA increases another $50 and in 2017, the BSA increases another $50 over the prior year, bringing the total to $6,044.
The legislation also addresses other key education topics important to Alaskans, including: Establishing a clear application and appeals process for new charter schools and providing one-time start-up funding for charter schools; bringing the state support for student room and board at residential schools up to the actual costs of providing those services; repealing the exit exam requirement for high school students, and instead requiring a more meaningful college and career readiness assessment; enabling students to achieve more by allowing them to test out of core subjects; funding of broadband Internet to provide additional opportunities for rural and remote communities; and, increasing accountability by directing the Alaska Board of Education to track how districts spend BSA funds.
Gas Pipeline and LNG Facility (SB 138)
For the first time in the history of Alaska, all three major producers have partnered with the State of Alaska to move a gas pipeline and liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility forward. This is the largest world-class project of its kind. Senate Bill 138 is enabling legislation authorizing the state to move into the Pre-FEED (Front End Engineering and Design) phase to further refine the cost and engineering aspects of the project. The legislation also affirms the commercial agreement signed by the state, the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation (AGDC), the three major producers, and TransCanada to advance the Alaska LNG Project.
This legislation is the first step of many in a long list of contracts and decisions that will go to the public for comment and to the legislature for approval and consideration.
If successful, this project will offer more affordable and reliable energy across Alaska, and provide a new source of revenue for generations to come. This project will also create thousands of jobs providing economic opportunity and stability for all Alaskans.
Knik Arm Bridge (HB 23)
After years of research, data collection and studies, the Alaska Legislature authorized $55 million in funding for construction of the Knik Arm Bridge from Anchorage to Point Mackenzie. This bridge is a vital infrastructure project that will create an alternative route between Alaska’s largest population bases and open land for development and economic opportunity for Alaskans.
The legislation requires the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) to apply for a Federal Highway Administration’s Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation ACT (TIFIA) loan. The money from the state would not be appropriated until the TIFIA funds are approved and secured. The bill also amends the powers of the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority (KABATA) by removing their authority to incur debt, issue bonds, and exercise eminent domain among other things. Once the bridge is built, the DOT&PF would transfer authority to KABATA to maintain and collect the tolls of the bridge.
This legislation was a compromise between the House and the Senate, creating sideboards, and ensuring certain steps are accomplished before the state invests additional funds into the project.
Pension Liability (HB 385)
Like most states in the nation, Alaska faces a significant unfunded liability for our public retirement systems. The combined unfunded liability is $11.9 billion and the annual pension contributions are some of the largest cost drivers in the states operating budget. The bill provides the framework for the transfer of $1 billion into the Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) and $2 billion into the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) from the Constitutional Budget Reserve Fund. This significant investment will allow the state to make lower annual payments to the pension plan and better control state spending as a result. This $3 billion cash infusion is projected to bring both systems to a 70 percent funding ration within two years.
Capital Budget (SB 119)
This year’s capital budget was reduced by $250 million in general fund spending from the previous year while still investing in public schools, deferred maintenance of infrastructure, the State Library and Archives, the UAA engineering school, and the UAF power and heating plant.
I worked with our local community members and our Chugiak-Eagle River delegation to prioritize projects in our area and worked closely with the co-chairs of the House and Senate Finance committees to secure funding for the following projects in our area:
• CBERRRSA - Road and Drainage Rehabilitation, $1.4M
• Yosemite Drive Area Drainage and Road Upgrade, $8M
• Chugiak-Eagle River Library Materials and Technology, $40K
• Birchwood ABC Elementary School Classroom Computers, $66,150
• Chugiak Elementary School Reading Intervention Program, $50K
• Chugiak High School Weight Room Equipment, $43,455
• Eagle Academy Charter School Microscopes w/Charging Stations, $13,937
• Eagle Academy Charter School New Science Textbooks, $27,610
• Eagle Academy Charter School Spalding Literature, $14.6K
• Eagle Academy Charter School Standards Based Report Cards Software, $10,800
• Eagle Academy Charter School Standards Touch Technology for 6th Grade, $21K
• Fire Lake Elementary School Technology Upgrades, $21K
• Gruening Middle School Furniture Replacement, $136K
• Mirror Lake Middle School Cafeteria Tables Replacement, $50K
• Boys & Girls Clubs - Eagle River Teen Center Energy & Safety Upgrades, $45K
• Eagle River Nature Center - New Trail Maintenance Garage, $300K
• Birchwood Community Patrol, $14.5K
• Chugach State Park Access and Trail Rehab - Mt. Baldy. $78K
• Eagle River Greenbelt Access Pathway Project, $240K
1. Foothills East Subdivision Area Street Reconstruction, $3M
2. D-25 Residential Road Rehabilitation and Replacements, $2.2M
3. Senate District M Residential Pavement Rehabilitation, $500K
4. Pleasant Valley Subdivision Area Road and Drainage, $400K
5. Campbell Airstrip Road Upgrade Mile 0.3 to Mile 0.7, $300K
6. Muldoon Library Materials and Technology, $40K
7. Alliance for American Legion Baseball - Bartlett High School Phase II - Athletic Facility, $179K
8. Bartlett High School Auditorium Concert Chairs, $20K
9. Bartlett High School Auditorium Lighting, $20K
10. Baxter Elementary School Teacher Computer Refresh, $38K
11. Chester Valley Elementary School Funding for Library, $12K
12. Chester Valley Elementary School Touch Technology $21K
13. East High School Stadium Seating and Scoreboard, $1.050M
14. East High School Theater Stage Lighting, $27.5K
15. Susitna Elementary - Furniture and Fixtures, $175K
16. Boys & Girls Clubs - Northeast Clubhouse Kitchen Upgrade, $48K
17. Northeast & Nunaka Valley Community Patrol, $10K
The capital budget will be transmitted to the governor in the next few weeks for his consideration. All of the projects are subject to veto.