Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed Alaska's capital budget Thursday afternoon, qualifying the state to receive approximately $1 billion in federal highway and construction funding. But, the signing came with caveats in the form of 27 line-item vetoes cutting more than $34.7 million in funding for homeless assistance grants, earthquake monitoring, deferred maintenance across the state and public safety.
These included a cut of $10 million from statewide addiction treatment facilities; $2.5 million from the University of Alaska for deferred maintenance; $2.5 million from the USArray Earthquake Monitoring Network; $3.6 million from Alaska Housing Finance Corporation's Homeless Assistance Program; $750,000 from the Alaska House Finance Corporation's Cold Climate House Research Center in Fairbanks; and $4 million from the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority's Interior Gas Utility liquefied natural gas storage facility project in North Pole.
Fairbanks Republican Rep. Bart LeBon noted the vetoes present a dim picture for a number of Interior Alaska projects.
"The Fairbanks area is impacted by the cuts to the university deferred maintenanace; we had an opportunity to purchase an earthquake array system at a very reasonable price and I'm afraid that opportunity may now slip away," LeBon said. "The LNG storage tanks out at North Pole were not funded, that will delay that project at best and at worst it will reduce needed storage capacity, Cold Climate research was reduced too, so overall it was not a particularly sunny day for the Interior budget-wise."
LeBon said he's not optimistic about the possibility of a veto override. While the capital budget was passed with 51 votes between the House and Senate and only 45 votes are needed for a veto override, LeBon said he thinks a number of legislators only voted for the capital budget to achieve specific goals, most of which still remain untouched.
"I believe a number of legislators voted to fund the capital budget for the reverse sweep, for Power Cost Equalization, for the federal match dollars," LeBon said. "And with those all funded through the bill and not vetoed, I think the motivation to reach a 45 veto override disappeared so I don't believe we could get to 45."
The governor also has communicated that he does not plan to call the Legislature into a third special session any time soon, meaning if the Legislature hopes to attempt an override vote, they would need to call themselves into a special session — a move that requires 40 votes between the House and Senate to achieve.
Other vetoes include:
• $200,000 cut from the Denali Commission, a group created by the late Sen. Ted Stevens to provide assistance with utilities and infrastructure in rural Alaska for clean water and safe sanitary sewer disposal;
• $50,000 cut from Federation of Community Councils Inc. for Anchorage-area community patrols;
• $5,000 cut from Federation of Community Councils Inc. for Mountain View-area community patrols;
• $400,000 cut from the Marine Exchange of Alaska for Alaska vessel tracking system upgrades and expansion;
• $42,800 cut from the Sterling Area Senior Citizens Inc. for safety and security projects including hallway carpet and kitchen upgrades;
• $300,000 cut from the Yukon Flats School District to replace the roof of the potable water tank at Chalkyitsik school;
• $15,000 cut from a project to earthquake-proof library shelving in the children's reading room of the Kenai Public Library;
• $70,000 cut from the community of Soldotna for patrol vehicle cameras;
• $900,000 cut from a project to renovate the Stratton building, which was to expand and preserve the collections of the State of Alaska’s Sheldon Jackson Museum in Sitka;
• $500,000 cut from state match funding for the Emergency Medical Service's Code Blue project, which seeks to fund equipment for emergency medical services in rural Alaska;
• $150,000 cut from the National Historic Preservation Fund;
• $5 million cut from the AHFC's Energy Programs Weatherization project;
• $1.75 million cut from the AHFC's Teacher, Health and Public Safety Professionals Housing project;
• $1 million cut in match funds for the Public and Community Transportation grant;
• and $1 million cut from mental health funding for coordinated transportation and vehicles.
The governor also reappropriated $200,000 in Exxon Valdez oil spill restoration funds to the Prince William Sound Science Center for planning and construction of the facility; appropriated proceeds from the sale of the Department of Education and Early Development state-owned land in Sitka to the Mt. Edgecumbe board school; reappropriated $346,000 from the Department of Military and Veterans' Affairs Alaska Military Youth Academy Deferred Maintenance to Flattop Mountain Trail projects; appropriated proceeds from the sale of Alaska Marine Highway System assets to the Alaska Marine Highway System vessel replacement fund; and reappropriated $9.3 million in unspent capital project funds to the Alaska Housing Capital Corp. account.
The passage of the bill did achieve a reverse sweep, which returns approximately $115 million to state savings accounts. That restores funding for the Alaska Higher Education Investment Fund, which supports the Alaska Performance Scholarship and other education grants, as well as the Power Cost Equalization Program, which seeks to mitigate higher energy costs in rural Alaska.
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMPolitics.