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Alaska Legislature

Another special session: Lawmakers headed to Juneau for capital budget vote

  • Author: Alex DeMarban
  • Updated: July 25, 2017
  • Published July 25, 2017

Lawmakers are headed back to Juneau for the third special session of the year on Thursday, an expected one-day meeting to allow lawmakers to pass a slender — and delayed — capital budget that leverages more than $1 billion in funds. 

The Legislature is calling itself into the session after presiding officers of the House and Senate, in a straw poll, found more than the constitutionally required two-thirds of the Legislature's 60 members supported the idea.

The capital budget, consisting mainly of public works spending, is the only item on the agenda.

The capital budget is typically passed by July 1, the start of the fiscal year. But lawmakers were not able to approve it in time as Alaska faces nagging questions about how to solve a giant fiscal crisis brought on by low oil prices.

Nome Democratic Rep. Neal Foster and Eagle River Republican Sen. Anna MacKinnon, co-chairs of their chambers' finance committees, were the key negotiators over the last week of the capital-budget compromise lawmakers will consider.

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Laura Cramer, chief of staff to MacKinnon, said Monday the capital budget will be publicly released before the session convenes. The plan will include more than $100 million in state funding for projects, providing money that leverages close to $1.2 billion in federal money, Cramer said.

The capital budget, dealing primarily with roads, bridges and several other projects across the state, will also provide guidance on what to do with money still held by two mothballed megaprojects, the Knik Arm Bridge and the Juneau Access Road.

The Juneau road project, which had called for a 50-mile road from Juneau to an unbuilt ferry terminal on the line north to Haines, contains more than $40 million, Cramer said.

The Knik Arm Bridge, proposing a nearly 2-mile-long span connecting Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susistna Borough, contains about $5 million, she said.

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The question is whether the funds should remain within the projects or be re-appropriated to other projects, Cramer said.

Gov. Bill Walker said in December his administration would not build the Juneau road. He shut down work on the bridge proposal in June 2016.

The special session starts at 11 a.m. Thursday, and is expected to be wrapped up later that day.

The single-day plan, following the budget negotiations and compromise, is designed to reduce costs associated with per diems and hotels that could accumulate if lawmakers met more than one day, Cramer said.

"The goal is to get people in and out and minimize costs as much as possible," she said.

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