Lawmakers fast-track bill to avoid paying Anchorage bonds

  • By Molly Dischner
  • Wednesday, March 25, 2015 11:05pm
  • News

JUNEAU — Lawmakers are attempting to fast-track a bill so the state won’t have to help pay for $59 million in school bonds in Alaska’s largest district.

The Senate on Wednesday approved a measure that would retroactively halt the state’s practice of partially reimbursing municipalities for school bonds issued after Jan. 1, 2015. If the bill passes, the state would resume reimbursements for new bonds beginning in July 2020 at a lower rate.

Anchorage voters on April 7 will decide the multimillion-dollar bond package.

Sens. Johnny Ellis and Bill Wielechowski, both Anchorage Democrats, said it’s unfair to change the policy because voting is already underway in Anchorage. They voted against the legislation.

“This causes all kinds of confusion,” Wielechowski said.

The projects had already gone through an approval process that included a determination that they were eligible for partial reimbursement by the state, Wielechowski said.

In information published on its website, the Anchorage School District has said the state would reimburse the municipality for 60 percent to 70 percent of the bonds.

Other lawmakers, however, said it’s not fiscally responsible for the state to agree to pay for any more projects because Alaska is facing a $3.5 billion deficit amid dramatically lower oil prices.

For this current budget year, the state is on the hook to spend $126.6 million reimbursing municipalities for bonds they are paying off.

Sen. Anna MacKinnon, R-Eagle River, said she doesn’t want the state to spend even more to reimburse new projects given the state’s budget issues.

“This is about controlling our expenses,” MacKinnon said, noting that school districts already were aware that reimbursement was dependent on the state’s ability to pay.

Anchorage School District spokeswoman Heidi Embley said if the bill becomes law, the bonds currently under consideration won’t receive state reimbursement as expected. “We did receive approval from the state that the projects did qualify,” Embley said.

Embley said the district has added a section on its website to let people know about the proposed change.

Wielechowski also introduced two amendments, but both failed. One amendment would have pushed the date to stop new reimbursements to July. The other amendment would have shortened the time period during which new bonds were not reimbursed, and would not lower the reimbursement rate once they were reinstated.

The bill still needs House approval and Gov. Bill Walker’s signature before April 7 to nullify a state match, if Anchorage voters approve the bonds.

Grace Jang, a spokeswoman for Walker, couldn’t say whether the governor would sign the bill in time if it passes, or veto it, because he generally doesn’t comment on legislation before it reaches his desk.

More in News

The Seward welcome sign is photographed in July 2021. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Seward vice mayor and council member resigns

The council accept the resignation of Tony Baclaan during its Monday night meeting.

Ben Mohr watches Kenai River Junior Classic participants head out to fish on the Kenai River in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)
Mohr resigns as director of KRSA

He has been the executive director of KRSA for nearly three years.

Heather and Hunter Phillips walk through the Kenai Community Library Haunted Hunt with their mom Kumi Phillips on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Scary reads

Spooky literary characters come to life at Kenai library haunted house.

Alaska state Rep. Laddie Shaw, an Anchorage Republican, waits for the start of a so-called technical session on the House floor, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021, in Juneau, Alaska. The fourth special legislative session of the year began Oct. 4, in Juneau, but there has been little action at the Capitol and little progress toward resolving Alaska’s fiscal issues. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)
Special session plods on with little action

Many legislative offices have been dark and floor sessions in some cases have lasted seconds.

The Kenai Community Library health section is seen on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. After the Kenai City Council postponed a vote to approve a grant funding health and wellness books, community members set up a GoFundMe to support the purchase of materials. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
After cries of censorship, community raises funds for library

The Kenai City Council voted during its Oct. 20 meeting to postpone acceptance of a $1,500 grant for materials related to health and wellness.

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. (CDC)
11 new deaths reported

Statewide there were 244 COVID-related hospitalizations as of Tuesday, with 37 of them on ventilators.

Rep. Don Young talks during a June 2021 interview with the Empire. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Young to face off with a Begich yet again

Young, 88, seemed unfazed by Begich’s entry into the race.

A remote galaxy captured by the Hubble Space Telescope is greatly magnified and distorted by the effects of gravitationally warped space. (Image via NASA)
Grant brings NASA to library

The grant supports science, technology, engineering, arts and math programming for patrons.

Most Read