Voters to decide on education bonds

(aired on APRN 10/20 and KTNA 10/28) If it passes, Proposition B would provide a lot of work for next years construction season.  $20 million for a pool at Mount Edgecumbe in Sitka,  $18 million for the state museum, library and archive in Juneau, $20 million for a Fish and Game for a research facility on Near Island, and a little more than three million dollars for a new vocational education facility in Klawock.

Thats more than $61 million.  The cost goes up another fifty nine million dollars for  University campuses at Kenai, Prince William Sound and Mat-su. On top of that is money for schools in Alakanuk, Kipnuk and Kwillingok – a total of $128 million dollars.
And  the two biggest items: $60 for a Community Arena and Athletic Facility at the University of Alaska-Anchorage and $88 million for a new Life Sciences Building at the University in Fairbanks.
The package came together quickly during this years session.  House Finance Co-chair Bill Stoltze, a Republican from Wasilla, showed members the final plan in a floor amendment in April. At that time,  he said the reason for putting it to the public this way was that the federal government was set up to pay thirty five percent of the interest on the bonds when they are issued.  ”   This bonding measure, taking advantage of this unique window we have with the Build America bonds,  passed by the Congress and the President, who we often send some harsh messages to ñ this is one thing that theyíve done that we are taking advantage of. ”

Stoltze said the schools were the top three priorities on the list of projects wanted by the Department of Education.  The Life Sciences Building was the number one priority of the Regents of the University.  The Athletic facility ñ number one on the list of projects from the Anchorage City Assembly.   He said as a package, its good policy. “I don’t know other mechanisms where we can deal with these rural school needs, our post secondary education needs throughout the state,  other than through this measure other than addressing such a breadth of school needs.”

There were other ways to get the same projects fully paid for — the budget carries over a surplus of money for next year.  And the bonds only add to future spending as they are repaid.   Democrats pointed that out in debate. although seeing what was available, they didn’t vote against the measure.   Les Gara of Anchorage led those arguments.  “We have the money now.  We’re going to be saddling the folks who are going to be balancing a budget in the future this way.  And, we’re in a world where we have eight point eight percent unemployment in the state.  Twenty percent unemployment in a lot of places in the state.  And the problem with the bonds from that perspective is the work doesn’t get on the street this summer.”
Gara said the bonds will give the state a more difficult financial future as they are paid off ,however, he wasn’t critical of the projects and that’s why he voted for it.    Report by Dave Donaldson, APRN Juneau

After this report was complete, reporter Sue Deyoe spoke with Josh Applebee of the y.e.s.onB  effort.  We could not find an organized effort working against the measure. The interview is about 9 minutes…


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