By Dave Donaldson
The House late last night approved putting a $397-Million question to voters in this year’s General Election in November. If approved at the polls, the measure would issue Bonds for education-related projects across the state.
Finance Co-chair Bill Stoltze said the money would come through a low-interest federal program called Build America Bonds.
We have the ability to convince the public that this is good public policy. I think we have the mechanism with the federal assist. We have one more impetus when the timing is right. And I don’t know of other mechanisms where we can deal with these rural school needs or post-secondary needs throughout the state, urban and rural, other than through this measure.
A positive election result would direct $128-million in bond money to three rural schools, build an art center for the University’s MatSu campus, a $60-million arena and athletic facility in Anchorage, an $88-million Life Sciences building at the University in Fairbanks and would pay for several other, smaller projects statewide.
Although he supported putting the question to voters, Anchorage Democrat Les Gara warned members of the risks of borrowing money with plenty of funds available now . He pointed out the risk of having lower revenue as the bonds are being paid off.
We have the money now. We’re going to be saddling folks who will have a hard time balancing the budget in the future this way. And we’re in a world where we have eight point eight percent unemployment in the state. Twenty percent in a lot of places in the state. And the problem with the bond from that perspective is the work doesn’t get on the street this summer.
The package passed unanimously and was sent to the Senate where the projects will be formally added to the Capital Projects Budget as an allowable expense, pending voter approval.