By Matt Buxton, Fairbanks News Miner
JUNEAU—The University of Alaska Fairbanks engineering building will likely have to wait for another year.
In a short floor session on Saturday, the Senate passed the smallest capital budget in more than a decade on an 18-2 vote. The budget didn’t include the $8 million Gov. Bill Walker proposed to put toward another phase of the incomplete building.
After the floor vote, Sen. Pete Kelly, a Fairbanks Republican who co-chairs the Senate Finance Committee and has done heavy lifting for UAF in recent years, said the spending this year can’t be justified.
“It’s nothing more than the financial crisis we’re in,” Kelly said. “It’s not that complicated.”
The capital budget totals $1.5 billion and consists almost entirely of federal money. Just $113 million of state general fund dollars is in the capital budget.
The budget does include $5 million added at the last minute to respond to Dalton Highway flooding and $43 million for a new school in Kivalina to satisfy an agreement in a lawsuit over state funding of rural schools.
There’s little in the way of spending in the Fairbanks area. Almost everything is federal money for capital projects at the Fairbanks International Airport.
All other general fund money was stripped out of the Fairbanks area’s capital projects list. In addition to the engineering building, the Senate also cut $896,000 for emergency repair of a state forest road system in the Tanana Valley State Forest.
As for the future of the engineering building, Kelly said it’ll have to wait.
“The way forward is it’s going to take longer,” he said.
The Interior Energy Project was also targeted in the budget. The $45 million remaining in the project funds was moved to an account controlled by the Legislature. Kelly said the move was aimed at protecting the project while the Legislature grapples with what to do regarding the overall direction of the project.
The $45 million was swept into the account among $94 million of reappropriations. Legislative staff to Sen. Anna MacKinnon, an Eagle River Republican who oversaw the capital budget, said the intention is that the Interior Energy Project money will be used for energy projects in the Interior.
On the floor, Senate Democrats attempted to defund an Anchorage road project as well as the Port MacKenzie rail extension in order to reallocate the money to other projects. The Republican-led majority opposed both efforts.
The budget now moves to the House, where Fairbanks Rep. Steve Thompson will oversee any changes the chamber might make to it.
Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.