Committee approves LIO money, none for lawsuit-required school

The Alaska Senate Finance Committee has approved a state construction budget with funding for a controversial Legislative office building in Anchorage and without funding for a lawsuit-required school in the Northwest Arctic Borough.

The committee on Thursday voted to approve a $1.6 billion capital budget funded primarily by federal money. According to documents provided by the Legislative Finance Division, $1.3 billion will be federal money accepted by the state and distributed to different departments and projects.

Most of the non-federal money consists of matching funds required to receive the federal dollars.

The committee’s action sends the capital budget to the full Senate for consideration.

Contained within the budget is $12.5 million to purchase a 47,000-square-foot building in Anchorage to serve as Legislative offices.

Requested by Gov. Bill Walker but rejected by the committee was $7.2 million for a school in the village of Kivalina. Sen. Donny Olson, D-Nome and a member of the committee, also requested funding for the school — which lies within his district — but was turned down by every other member of the committee.

In 2011, the state settled a 14-year-old lawsuit over rural school funding. As part of that lawsuit (known as Kasayulie v. State), Alaska was required to build new schools in Emmonak, Koliganek, Nightmute, Kwethluk and Kivalina.

Last year, the Legislature appropriated nearly $43 million for the project, but in a memo dated April 9, 2015, Assistant Attorney General Rebecca Hattan said the state must pay slightly more than $50 million to meet its obligations.

Walker requested $7.2 million to complete the state’s payments, but Sen. Anna MacKinnon, R-Anchorage, said on Thursday that “there is enough money that is, for lack of a better phrase, pigeon-holed for this project.”

After the meeting, a MacKinnon staffer said lawyers advising the senator had a different figure for the amount required to be paid by the settlement.

Olson disagreed, and Pat Pitney, director of the state’s Office of Management and Budget, told the committee that “the administration also believes that the commitment under the lawsuit requires an additional $7 million toward the school construction.”

MacKinnon said Pitney isn’t from the Department of Law and might not be familiar with the legal issues behind the topic.

Cori Mills, a spokeswoman for the Department of Law, said Pitney was accurate. “Our letter from last year, that still applies, and we still stand behind that,” Mills said by phone. “It’s $50 million, and they appropriated $43 (million). The governor put forward the $7.2 (million) for that reason.”

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of June 15

Here’s what to expect this week.

KINY’s “prize patrol” vehicle is parked outside the Local First Media Group Inc.’s building on Wednesday morning. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Juneau radio station KINY is using AI to generate news stories — how well does it get the scoop?

As trust and economics of news industry continue long decline, use and concerns of AI are growing.

An empty classroom at Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé on July 20, 2022. (Lisa Phu/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska faces consequences as federal education funding equity dispute continues

State officials offered feds a $300,000 compromise instead of $17 million adjustment.

Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson, D-Anchorage, speaks on the Senate floor on March 6. Gray-Jackson was the sponsor of a bill to make Juneteenth a state holiday. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
On Juneteenth, Gov. Dunleavy weighs adding a new legal holiday for Alaska

If the governor signs recently passed bill, Juneteenth would be observed as a state holiday in 2025.

Observers from the U.S. Department of Justice examine the accessibility of a polling place in Juneau’s Mendenhall Valley during the Aug. 16, 2022, primary election. The Justice Department concluded that the state violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to properly accommodate voters with disabilities. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Disabled Alaskans encountered barriers in recent elections, Justice Department investigation finds

Alaska failed to accommodate people with disabilities who were trying to cast… Continue reading

Independent Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks during a campaign rally at Legends Event Center on Dec. 20, 2023, in Phoenix, Arizona. (Rebecca Noble/Getty Images)
Want to run for President in Alaska? You’ll need a few thousand friends.

On Friday, supporters of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. turned in more than… Continue reading

A Juneau Police Department officer talks on a radio in a patrol car. Officials said JPD’s communications system, which had an end-of-life date in 2014, needs to be replaced to provide improvements such as full radio coverage within the city and borough limits. (City and Borough of Juneau photo)
Voters may be asked to OK $22.75M in bonds to upgrade emergency communications, wastewater treatment

Juneau Assembly will consider two proposed measures, take public comments, at July 1 meeting.

Construction on Egan Drive on Tuesday evening leaves one lane open in each direction. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Fred Meyer intersection gets turn-lane safety upgrades; traffic signal planned by 2026

Project seeking to reduce frequency and severity of crashes includes lower seasonal speed limits

A view of Angoon from a floatplane on Friday. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)
Thayer Creek Hydro project fulfills ‘dream of the elders’

Angoon hydropower groundbreaking comes after four decades of effort, seeks to stabilize future costs

Most Read