Senate Floor Debate on SB 230 - Capital Budget

So much for posting every day until the end of session!  Oh dear!  How about a posting on yesterday's floor debate on the capital budget?

SB 230 – Budget: Capital, Supplemental, & Other Appropriations

The Senate passed CSSB 230(FIN) 19 yeas, 1 nay. Sen. Bunde voted against the bill. SB 230 has been transmitted to the House and was referred to the House Finance Committee. It is scheduled for a hearing on Wednesday, April 14 at 8:30 a.m. (See the “Saturday, April 10, 2010 CSSB 230(FIN) AKEDUPDATE” for a list of education-related projects.)

Sen. Bunde offered an amendment to remove many of the projects in SB 230. He thought a more appropriate place for the projects was in a bond package. The Finance Committee co-chairmen disagreed. Sen. Stedman said.....
many of the projects Sen. Bunde had tagged for removal were planning or short-term projects that should not be bonded for. Sen. Bunde was the only member to support the amendment, and it failed.

During discussion on SB 230, Sen. Ellis noted that the projects in the bill were all forwarded to them from municipalities and school districts. There are all kinds of public hearings during the municipal and school district process for ranking projects, in addition to the legislative process. For Sen. Bunde to say that the projects have not been vetted in a public process is misleading. Sen. Ellis said that there was a public process at both the local and state level before any of these projects made it into the bill.

Sen. Stedman explained during floor debate the process that communities go through to get their projects into the legislative system in order to be considered for funding. They review all projects that have been submitted. Communities rank their projects so the legislature knows which ones are most important to the communities. Legislators sit down with mayors and assembly members to discuss the projects. When the legislature crafts the budget, they also look at the Governor’s priorities, and they look at communities that might need more help with infrastructure than others. Sen. Stedman also reviewed recent capital budget history. Right now, SB 230 contains $1.8 billion in state general funds, and $1 billion in federal funds.

Sen. Stedman reviewed some of the other expenditures the legislature handles through various funds and programs. He noted the importance of ensuring that fire fighters have good equipment and addressing deferred maintenance. SB 230 includes funding for library replacement and expansion across the state. Libraries are critical to education and the economy of the state. Stedman said the state hasn’t built a major road in 30 years; SB 230 includes road construction funding. There is also $500 million for road repair, $290 million for airport improvements, and $83 million in dock and harbor work. There is $190 million for the University of Alaska. Sen. Stedman reminded everyone that they had saved before spending, and that the state is in a better financial situation than it has been in a long time.

Sen. Bunde disagreed that forward funding education was saving money; he said it was just a check that had not yet been cashed. He also thinks all the projects will overheat the economy, and it will just cause a bunch of people to move to Alaska, then the economy will go bust again. Sen. Bunde said he still opposed SB 230.