Walker keeps funding for Juneau Access but nixes money for Anchorage bridge

Gov. Bill Walker declined to veto additional money for the Juneau Access Project, but he did nix funding for another Alaska road-building project before signing the state’s new operating budget Wednesday in Anchorage.

Walker vetoed $2.5 million for the Knik Arm Crossing, a proposed bridge between Anchorage and points northward. Opponents of the project have estimated its cost at $2.5 billion; proponents have estimated it at under $1 billion. In either case, the bulk of the cost would be paid by the federal government.

[Analysis: Alaska Gov. Bill Walker signs deficit-slashing budget, but ‘shadow deficit’ remains]

The project was considered dead when Walker redirected funding for it (and several other major Alaska construction efforts) after oil prices fell. Sen. David Wilson, R-Wasilla, proposed an amendment that would restore some state money to the project to keep it alive. That idea was scaled back to the $2.5 million amount that passed the Legislature, but Walker decided against approving it.

Walker did allow a transfer of about $21 million to the Juneau Access Project, which aims to build a road north from Juneau. While a Walker spokesperson said earlier this year that the governor is still opposed to construction of the road, he declined to stop the Legislature from funding it with more money.

Lawmakers last year sent money away from the project after Walker decided against construction. Money was sent from the road to other transportation projects in Lynn Canal and a school in the Arctic. The transfer to other Lynn Canal projects was reversed in this year’s budget.

Alaska’s constitution allows the governor to use a line-item veto in budget bills.

Walker also vetoed $500,000 for a study on the effects of Vitamin D on the health of children and mothers. That proposal was pushed through the Legislature by Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer. Seaton is running for re-election as an independent after the Alaska Republican Party withdrew all support for him.

The governor removed a section of the budget that would have redirected money from a street-lighting project in Anchorage to other projects. The street-lighting project is not complete, and the money is still needed.

The governor’s final veto was against contingency language that would have allowed the state to spend more money from the Alaska Permanent Fund than permitted under a separate bill passed by the Legislature.

Pat Pitney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, suggested Wednesday that allowing additional spending would have endangered the sustainability of the fund.

• Contact reporter James Brooks at jbrooks@juneauempire.com or 523-2258.

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