The Alaska State Capitol. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

The Alaska State Capitol. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Alaska senators unveil $1.4 billion capital construction budget

Lawmakers got their first look at the state’s billion-dollar capital construction and renovation budget on Wednesday as the Senate Finance Committee unveiled its draft proposal.

The $1.39 billion spending plan is some $280.5 million less than the idea proposed by Gov. Bill Walker, who intended to pay for the higher spending with a temporary payroll tax.

Senators have rejected that idea, and the capital construction budget under consideration is funded primarily with money from the federal government. Fully $1.1 billion of the proposal comes from federal matching funds unlocked with $280 million in state cash.

Sen. Anna MacKinnon, R-Eagle River and co-chairwoman of the finance committee, said the proposal balances state needs with the fact that Alaska faces a $2.4 billion deficit amid dwindling savings.

“This capital budget is based on withdrawing funds that are in savings,” she said.

Most capital project spending is for transportation. Airports are scheduled to receive $221.5 million, and the state’s surface transportation program (generally road construction and maintenance) will receive $670 million.

Both figures are up from last year.

The Senate proposal also includes $13.5 million for maintenance, rehab and certification of the state’s ferries. That’s up from $11 million approved by the Legislature last year.

Much of the budget’s technical language consists of re-appropriations from construction projects that finished under budget.

State and legislative employees thoroughly scrubbed state accounts to find those projects. The smallest reappropriation is $31, left over from a Fritz Cove road project.

One notable reappropriation that didn’t make the list is the Juneau Access Project.

Last year, after Gov. Bill Walker said he would not proceed with the road north from Juneau, lawmakers diverted half of the $47 million allocated to Juneau Access.

The remaining half of the money remains unused in the state budget, and House Republicans have renewed calls for the road’s construction. A poll commissioned by road supporters found rising support in the capital city.

Also not appearing in the budget are budget requests for the Port of Anchorage and an enhanced 911 system.

One program that does get funding under the Senate proposal is $2.5 million to address the state’s backlog of untested sexual assault evidence kits, which are informally known as “rape kits.”

The state previously estimated that clearing the backlog would require between $2.2 million and $3 million.

The Senate Finance Committee will take public testimony on the capital budget starting at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

The capital budget is one of a handful of key bills that must be approved by the Legislature before adjournment. Last year, lawmakers needed to call themselves into a special July session to pass a capital budget.

• Contact reporter James Brooks at or 523-2258.

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