The $1.4-billion budget designated for renovation and construction, approved by The Alaska House of Representatives, has run into a hitch — the House has not given the go-ahead to the money required to pay it. As a result, several hundred million dollars may never reach the various programs they were meant to fund. The fate of these programs, after the fiscal year ends on July 1, remains uncertain.
Road construction could be negatively affected by this blunder. The state set aside 1 billion dollars for this item, the bulk of which the federal government must produce. However, the state is responsible for paying a part of the costs. The same principle applies to many other maintenance projects, and they might also be swept up in the budgetary oversight.
Taking money from the Constitutional Budget Reserve can cover up these costs. However, this requires a majority vote of at least 30 House representatives, which did not happen. Only 23 out of 40 members voted to use the reserve money, meaning the proposition was turned down.
On Tuesday, June 11, the Republican minority stated that it would not refuse to dip into the budget reserve, but only if the House and Senate agreed to a Permanent Fund dividend of 3,000 dollars. The majority denied the proposal.
The minority also suggested other means of funding besides the reserve, but thus far, a number of such amendments were voted against. The Alaskan Constitution demands that all money taken from the reserve need to be repaid, which is currently not feasible, according to Rep. David Eastman.
The House Finance Committee co-chairwoman and representative, Tammie Wilson, claims that the money from the reserve is meant to cover costs for this year’s dividend for the Permanent Fund.
The vote cast on Wednesday places the capital budget back in the Senate’s hands to reconsider. The budget assigns 2.5 million to earthquake sensors, 10 million dollars to drug treatment facilities, and new legislation designed to crack down on criminal activity.