House votes to halt school bond repayment program

  • Thursday, April 2, 2015 9:14pm
  • News

JUNEAU (AP) — The municipality of Anchorage could be the last community to be reimbursed for new school bonds before a five-year hiatus, but the House speaker hinted this may not yet be a done deal.

Alaska’s House voted Thursday in favor of Senate Bill 64, which would halt the state’s practice of partial repayments on school maintenance and construction bonds for five years, and then reduce the reimbursement rate after that. An effort to make that effective immediately failed when it received just 24 votes, instead of the 27 needed, so the bill won’t become law for 90 days.

As things stand, the state could be on the hook for its share of a nearly $60 million bond package that Anchorage voters will consider Tuesday, according to an aide to Sen. Anna MacKinnon, whose committee sponsored the bill.

A memo from the Legislature’s Legal Services division said the immediate effective date needed to pass both the House and Senate, and the governor needed to sign the bill before the election to prevent a constitutional issue in backdating the hiatus to avoid paying for the Anchorage bonds.

House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, said lawmakers were working on another possible solution to prevent the state from having to include Anchorage in the bond reimbursement pool before halting the program, but he wouldn’t provide details Thursday afternoon.

The bill passed the Senate last week. Gov. Bill Walker’s spokeswoman had no comment on whether the governor would sign it since it hasn’t reached his desk yet.

Thursday was the second time the House voted on the bill and when it would go into effect. Lawmakers on Wednesday couldn’t get the 27 votes — or two-thirds majority to make it effectively immediately.

Chenault said he thought the legislators working on the bill had the votes to pass the effective date when they said they wanted to proceed with the reconsideration vote Thursday, but that ultimately wasn’t the case.

Mike Abbott, chief operating officer for the Anchorage School District, said Thursday afternoon that the district had just heard about the vote and was still looking at what it would mean for reimbursement of the bond package. Overall, however, Abbott said the school district valued the state’s reimbursements, and was concerned about the hiatus.

The bill was sponsored by the Senate Finance Committee and introduced in March, and proponents have portrayed it as a way to help curb state spending. The state faces a $3.5 billion dollar deficit due to a decline in oil prices, and Rep. Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks, said that his role in Juneau was to help control spending, not increase it.

But others pointed to the need for school maintenance. Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, said he thought the five-year hiatus could just lead to more projects to pay off when the program is reinstated after five years of neglected maintenance at schools.

The reimbursements don’t occur until the municipality has started making payments, and they are subject to the Legislature appropriating the money for them.

More in News

Alaska Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer speaks during a press conference announcing the administration’s push for changes to the state’s election system on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021, in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Kevin Goodman, State of Alaska)
Just 2 Alaska lieutenant governor candidates say 2020 presidential vote was fair

Alaska’s lieutenant governor will oversee the 2024 presidential election

Kenai Peninsula School District Superintendent Clayton Holland stand near the entrance to the district’s Soldotna offices on Thursday, March 17, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Academics, staff recruitment among district priorities for upcoming school year

The superintendent is ready to see KPBSD return to the district’s pre-COVID-19 academic performance

Raymond Bradbury preserves his salmon while dipnetting in the mouth of the Kenai River on Saturday, July 10, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion file)
Personal use harvest reports due Monday

Northern Kenai fishing report

Evelyn Cooley competes in the barrel race at the Kenai Peninsula Fair on Aug. 12, 2022, in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Music, magic, daredevils and pigs

Kenai Peninsula Fair brings an assortment of activities to Ninilchik

Signs direct voters at the Kenai No. 3 precinct on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion file)
Signs direct voters at the Kenai No. 3 precinct for Election Day on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Local candidates report support from state PACs

Labor unions and the National Education Association are among the groups putting money into Kenai Peninsula state election races

Signs and examples on the recycling super sack at the Cook Inletkeeper Community Action Studio show which plastics are desired as part of the project in Soldotna, Alaska, on Aug. 11, 2022. Plastics from types 1, 2, 4 and 5 can be deposited.(Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Local nonprofit accepting plastics for synthetic lumber project

The super sack receptacles can be found on either side of Soldotna

This July 28, 2022, photo shows drag queen Dela Rosa performing in a mock election at Cafecito Bonito in Anchorage, Alaska, where people ranked the performances by drag performers. Several organizations are using different methods to teach Alaskans about ranked choice voting, which will be used in the upcoming special U.S. House election. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Groups get creative to help Alaska voters with ranked voting

Organizations have gotten creative in trying to help voters understand how to cast their ballot, as the mock election featuring drag performers shows

A school bus outside of Kenai Central High School advertises driver positions on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Staff shortage, gas prices change school bus routes

The changes do not apply to the district’s special education students

The cast of “Tarzan” rides the Triumvirate Theatre float during the Independence Day parade in downtown Kenai, Alaska on Monday, July 4, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
The show goes on as Triumvirate seeks funding for new theater

The troupe has staged shows and events and is looking to debut a documentary as it raise funds for new playhouse

Most Read