Alaska lawmakers consider slapping priorities on megaproject wish list
March 28, 2014
By Pat Forgey | The Alaska Dispatch: JUNEAU — Alaskans love big projects, but some in Juneau are coming to grips with the realization that the state’s wants may exceed — even far exceed — its diminishing resources.
The state’s billions of dollars in budget surpluses have resulted in $17 billion in available savings, but now that those surpluses have turned into deficits, they are expected to rapidly eat into those savings in coming years.
How long the extra billions last may depend on legislators’ desires to feed capital project money into their home districts and a series of mega-projects that are also under consideration, including roads, dams, bridges and gas pipelines. At the same time, big pension debt is hanging over the state, further limiting legislators’ options.
Sen. Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, is a co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and is handling the capital budget. He said the state isn’t able to spend what it has spent in the last few years.
“We’re in the process now of going through the governor’s proposed capital budget and trying to find reductions we can make,” he said.
Among those projects currently in the sights of some are a couple of billion-dollar projects, the Susitna-Watana Dam and the Knik Arm Crossing, and numerous smaller ones.
Meyer said it might be time to cut funding for the big dam project while the state focuses instead on a natural gas pipeline.
“I’m not convinced that has to be funded, the Susitna-Watana, they haven’t used the appropriation that we’ve given them in previous years,” he said.