By Dave Donaldson
Governor Parnell’s request for quick legislative action on putting money to work catching up on repairs to state buildings around the state will not make his goal of passing by March first. And the projects it would have kick-started will likely wait until the full capital projects budget passes near the end of the session in April.
Finance Co-chair Bill Stolze this morning said it’s the administration’s own fault.
I don’t think the individual departments had descriptions of their projects. Some of them weren’t maintenance projects, they were buying equipment. Some were circumstances of employees within the budget. I think there would have been support for getting something out early if it was truly deferred maintenance.
He said legislators should take part in identifying useful projects. They don’t need to rely on — what he called — a mid-level bureaucrat putting a plan together to spend $100-million a year for the next five years.
Mike Hawker, the other Finance Co-chair said the governor’s plan was politically attractive. But he said it made putting together the state’s entire spending plan for the year very complicated. Hawker said the Finance Committees must estimate revenue, operating expenses, other identified capital needs — and, only then, balance all the elements.
When you sort of take a big part of that off the table early, and say it has a greater priority that all the other needs of the state in that budget cycle, it becomes a very significant challenge. I think it sounds good in principle, but in practice it is much more complicated than it sounds.
Governor Parnell says there’s nothing magic about the March First deadline, except that by meeting it, the state can make money available to contractors sooner. He says waiting for the later, slower appropriation will put this summer’s work at risk, and he’s asking legislators to consider the purpose of the early deadline — providing jobs for Alaskans this year.
Bottom line is that we should all be in agreement that fixing what we’ve got, deferred maintenance — that’s good. Jobs for Alaskans, our small contractors, mid-sized contractors — that’s good. Let’s move.
Director of Management and Budget Karen Rehfeld said even if the bill has stopped, the Deferred Maintenance plan is not dead. She says the executive branch can prepare in advance for a late arrival and put a rush on the contracting process — getting some of the work on track with a July First operative date.