News-Miner opinion: The message from the Associated General Contractors of Alaska is clear and unmistakable: “Pass the capital budget.”
Jobs are at risk of being lost. Lots of them.
The big pool of muck that has become the legislative process has left Alaska without a public works and construction budget well beyond the time by which it should have been approved. The consequence of not having the matter resolved by the end of this month are enormous: the loss of about $900 million in federal matching dollars for loads of future construction projects statewide.
That $900 million is a 9-to-1 return on investment for Alaska.
And you can bet that other states will be more than happy to try to acquire any federal money that Alaska’s governor and legislators can’t find the common sense to bring here.
Alaskans know very well the importance of construction projects. Highways, airports, docks, public buildings — federal money helps make improvements to these vital aspects of life in the Far North possible.
That’s the message from the Associated General Contractors.
“Some issues are bigger than politics. Building Alaska is one of them,” the organization’s post reads. “We wish legislators and Governor Dunleavy well in finding common ground. But roads, bridges, airports and 15,000 Alaska jobs can’t wait. Alaskans depend on basic infrastructure to live and work safely. We urge our elected officials to pass the capital budget. Hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds are at risk of being lost. If a capital budget fails to pass, Alaskans and our economy lose. There’s still time to pass the capital budget. Let’s work together and finish the job.”
AGC posted that message to its Facebook page on July 10, but no capital budget followed.
On Monday morning of this week, the message on the organization’s Facebook page became even more urgent:
“The timing is critical for Alaska’s capital budget and we need the Legislature to finalize it ASAP. The capital budget is AGC’s #1 priority, specifically funding that will maximize capture of federal matching transportation funds. #akleg Please make it happen!”
It didn’t happen.
The state Senate did approve a $162 million capital budget and its associated funding plan 19-0 on Saturday, only to see the funding component fall two votes short of the necessary three-quarters vote in the House on Sunday. A second attempt in the House on Monday failed by a single vote.
The capital budget has become one of several big items caught up in disagreements between the governor and a majority of the Legislature and between the majority and minority organizations within the Legislature. It’s knotted up with debate about this year’s Alaska Permanent Fund dividend, what to do about the governor’s line-item vetoes in the operating budget, and how to respond to his other budget actions that have ended programs such as rural energy cost subsides and higher-education scholarships for high school students.
So here we sit, just days away from kissing $900 million in federal dollars goodbye.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget vetoes, unless circumvented by the Legislature, are already going to drain jobs from the state. Surely no elected official would want to add to that economically worrisome problem by failing to approve a capital budget that can capture $900 million in federal money for construction work.
The House Majority Coalition announced on Thursday that a “third and final” vote on the capital budget will be held Monday, two days before the ominous July 31 deadline.
The loss of hundreds of millions in federal dollars, if it happens, will be a failure that should haunt Gov. Dunleavy and his supporters in the Legislature throughout their time in office.