Like other capital spending in Alaska, funding for roads, ports and airport projects tends to be boom or bust. When oil prices and state revenues are high, lawmakers suddenly flood the construction market with transportation projects. When revenues are low, that funding all but dries up. Moreover, there is often little agreement between Alaska legislators and the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (ADOT/PF) on which projects to prioritize.
The end result is a spasmodic, unpredictable, and rather politicized process of funding critical Alaska transportation infrastructure. Once state oil revenues begin their inevitable decline from current levels, and federal transportation funds dry up under pressure from the national debt, there is a very real danger that funding for transportation projects will plummet, leaving critical needs unmet.
To address these concerns, Rep. Peggy Wilson (R – Wrangell/ Ketchikan) sponsored a series of bills in the Alaska Legislature last year that would change all of that. Joined by several co‐sponsors in the House, her bills would set up a statewide Alaska Transportation Infrastructure Fund (ATIF) approved by the voters. These funds would be available to match federal funds in many cases.
Three bills were in the package introduced last year by Rep. Wilson:
Of the three, the bill that moved the farthest was HJR 4, which would have asked the voters to amend the Alaska constitution to allow for a dedicated transportation projects fund. It passed the House, was sent over to the Senate, had one committee hearing there, and died in the Senate Finance Committee as the legislature ran out of time. It joins several other important pieces of economic development legislation that died in Senate Finance without a floor vote.
The elected officials listed to the left have exhibited strong leadership on stabilizing and ensuring adequate transportation infrastructure funding by sponsoring or co‐sponsoring the creation of an ATIF. Contact them and thank them for their vision. We trust that they will try again next year.
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