By Dave Donaldson
The Senate today passed its version of next year’s capital projects budget. The measure spends $1.4-Billion dollars in state money, another $1-Billion in federal money and sets up a spending plan for another $400-million in income from a bond proposition that voters will need to approve.
With 148 pages of projects and expenditures, the public’s response the capital budget has focused primarily on its size. However, when it came to voting on the total package, Anchorage Republican Con Bunde was the only opposition to arise.
The people who created it were perhaps a bit too enthusiastic.
As a starting point, Bunde wanted to send $450- million of the plan back to the people – subtracting the appropriation of state money and adding it back among those projects funded by bonds, if the voters want to approve them. That failed, on a nineteen to one vote. And the debate proceeded along more traditional lines.
Finance Co-Chair Bert Stedman presented the argument to justify the expense, balancing it with the expectation that the state will have set aside more than $12- Billion in available savings accounts by the end of June. He said the budget reflects an aggressive approach to deal with some of the state’s biggest social and economic problems – and at the same time, he said it’s providing infrastructure that’s needed now. He says the state needs to have projects that will be here for decades.
We can’t save ourselves to prosperity. We can’t put all our money into savings and let our buildings and our roads fall down around our ears and expect to keep employment running from Bristol Bay to Ketchikan to Point Barrow. Mr. President, it takes expenditures, it takes leadership and foresight. And I hope over the next couple of years, we start having conversations about how much savings we’re going to have set aside – and how are we going to allocate per year for some of these bigger projects.
Bunde was unmoved. Saying that rationalization is the key to happiness, he warned that the majority spending will likely lead to an overheated economy — so much more than the state needs that Alaska jobs will be put at risk because workers will have to be brought in from elsewhere. He said if the budget were paid for by Alaskans, it would cost fifteen thousand dollars per person.
And at a time in the not too distant future, when we do not have the oil revenues that we have now, I’m suggesting that these dollars – although there are lots of wants – would be better saved for the needs of the future. And so I continue to object to the passage of this bill.
The budget goes to the House where members have been invited to suggest up to a half-million dollars per district in projects to add to the plan.
A link to the budget that Passed the Senate today can be found here.