Senate passes $2 billion capital spending package

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 6, 2013 at 9:07 pm •  Published: April 6, 2013

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The Alaska Senate passed a $2 billion capital spending package Saturday — much smaller than Alaskans have seen in recent years but one that a leading senator suggested they'll have to start getting used to.

Saturday's 17-3 vote followed several failed attempts by minority Democrats to amend the bill, including a bid to add additional funding for things like two engineering buildings within the University of Alaska system. Sen. Berta Gardner, D-Anchorage, originally voted against the bill but changed her vote on reconsideration.

Sen. Kevin Meyer, who oversaw the crafting of the package as co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said the days of very robust capital budgets are a thing of the past, at least for the near future, until the state starts to see more oil production.

Alaska relies heavily on oil revenues to run, but higher prices in recent years have helped to mask the impact of declining production on the state budget.

Meyer, R-Anchorage, said the roughly $109 million needed to finish the engineering buildings at the University of Alaska Anchorage and University of Alaska Fairbanks was too big an ask during a session in which lawmakers and the governor have been trying to rein in spending and plan for how the state might absorb the near-term hit in revenue from a proposed oil tax cut. The tax overhaul is aimed at helping boost production but it could cost the state billions of dollars in the coming years.

Supporters of an oil tax cut say the state would be in a similar predicament — looking to cut spending and dipping into reserves — even if a tax change wasn't on the table.