Capital Budget-Compare FY15 to FY16

Here is a chance to compare this year's capital budget (FY16/SB 26)to last year's (FY15/SB119). This year's is lean and mean out of necessity. We will hear the cries from special interests but Alaska is in tough times and reality is here.

[This is a “reprint” of a story from April of 2014 on last year’s (FY15) capital budget just to give you an idea of what excesses were included in previous capital budgets.  This year’s capital budget (SB 26) for FY16 has been  trimmed down to the bare essentials by Senate Finance.  This is crucial to maintaining fiscal responsibility due to low oil prices and low volume.]

In the past few years the capital budget for Alaska has been seen as a bucket of pork for special interests as well as some necessary capital improvements.  This year is no different.  School districts, boroughs, nonprofit groups, villages, community councils, and other government entities either journey to Juneau or testify to the senate and house finance committees to lobby for their organizations.  As the capital budget emerged from the Senate, the price tag was a whopping $2.1 billion.  And this from a state with dwindling revenue from oil production.

Here’s part of the story that get little attention: the U.S. government provides about $1.09 billion of that total.  So, the federal government which is broke must be printing more money to send to Alaska which will also soon be broke.  Clearly, the spending on this scale is not sustainable and we are loading our kids and grandkids with a mountain of debt.  But it’s an election year and all things are possible, especially spending for special interests.

We have seen overbuilt schools, over sized crime labs, fish processing plants, and numerous bike trails in previous capital budgets. The capital budget, SB119 as amended by Senate Finance, is less than last year’s by about $250 million.  However, there are still many “wants” in this capital budget. Surely, many more earmarks will be placed in the capital budget by legislators at the prodding of their special interest constituents.  Here are some examples which we believe you should know about  (page and line refer to the SB119 as passed out of the Senate to the House).  We are not making judgment calls on most of these.  These just stood out during an election year:

  • Pelican, ice machine (pg 12, line 14)—–$300K —–(lot of ice for a population of 87 people; must be for margaritas)
  • Seldovia , fully equipped police vehicle (pg 12, line 26)—–$45K—–(262 people, 3 miles of paved roads, submitted by Barney Fife)
  • Sitka, commercial passenger visitor facility improvement(pg 12, line 32)—–$3.3M (shouldn’t cruise lines pay for this?)
  • Skagway float extension to serve cruise passenger vessels(pg 13, line 1)—–$1.8M (same as last)
  • Soldotna regional sports complex (pg13, line 7)—–$1.2M
  • Whittier Shotgun Cove rd (pg13, line 17)—–$2M (which developer stands to gain from this very short road?)
  • Alaska Mobility Coalition (pg 45, line 21)—–$1M (Lot of money for a nonprofit to get us out of our cars)
  • Kiana airport improvements etc (pg 47, line 31)—–$6.3M (population 361)
  • Kodiak airport improvements (pg 48, line 6)—–$10.6M
  • Kwigillingok airport & snow removal equip bldg (pg 48, line 13)—–$18M (population 321)
  • Seward Airport (pg 48, line 21)——$17M
  • Ted Stevens Anchorage International airport/Concourse C Flooring Renewal——$400K (pg 48, line 29) (Didn’t we just build this thing a few years ago?)
  • Anchorage Metropolitan Area Transportation Solutions (AMATS) – Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities/Trails Project (pg 52, line 25)——$1M (how about some roads?)
  • AMATS – Air Quality Public and Business Awareness Education Campaign (pg 52, line 19)——$300K  (that’s a lot of awareness and brainwashing at our expense)
  • AMATS – Ridesharing & transit marketing (pg 53, line 4)—–$750K (still trying to get us out of our cars)
  • Fairbanks Gold Hill Road Bicycle and Pedestrian Facility (pg 54, line 18)——$4.7M (pg 54, line 18) (still trying to get us out of our cars)
  • Fairbanks MATS bike & pedestrian path (pg 54, line 27)—–$700K (damn it, just walk)
  • Juneau roads (consolidated projects) (pg 56, lines 20-31)——$29M (gotta keep the capital here)
  • Parks Highway MP 43-52 improvements (pg 56, line 18)—–$50M (that’s $5M per mile)
  • Richardson Highway – Milepost 356-362 Bicycle/Pedestrian Path (pg 30, line 12)——$2.3M (how many walk this “path”?)
  • Statewide – Air Quality Public Education  (pg 57, line 20)———-$600K  (by now we should all know how good our air is)
  • UAA Engineering Building (pg 59, line16)——-$45M (UAA, nice way to piecemeal a project, kinda like ASD)
  • Grant to Anchorage Parks Foundation (pg 97, line 15-26)—–$298K (so they can lobby for more parks in Anchorage)
  • Grant to Anchorage Parks Foundation (pg 98, line 21)—–$75K (so they can lobby for more parks in Anchorage x2)

So, what do you think? Can we continue to spend this way? Here is a link to the SB119 fm Senate to House.