House Votes to Take a Risk on State Funding for Proposed Knik Arm Bridge
The bridge bill as a whole faces a State House vote Tuesday
ALASKA - At the state Capitol the house voted in effect to take a risk on the proposed Knik Arm Bridge – rejecting an effort by Democrats to ban state funding for any gap between toll revenues and bond payments.
There were a number of concerns raised about the bridge by Democrats, as the house was considering a bill expanding the bonding authority of the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority.
But the question at hand came down whether or not the state should take a risk.
Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage) said the bridge authority has reneged on previous claims there would be no state funds needed for the crossing, which is supposed to be paid off by tolls.
He said the issue was obscured because the state liability provision was taken out of the bill itself, but will be included in the request for proposals for construction.
Gara offered an amendment clarifying that the state would not be liable. "And regardless of what our view is on oil, Mr. Speaker, I think we all agree that if the price of oil starts dropping, we're in a much more delicate fiscal situation than we are today. The last thing we need, if that happens, is $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion liability facing the people of the state of Alaska."
"The state owns the bridge,” responded Representative Mark Neuman, “KABATA is an entity of the state. Who owns this bridge? The state owns the bridge. We're asking to say, 'hey private industry, you take all the risk, you invest up to a billion dollars, you take all the risk, the state will own it,' and that's what this amendment asks for. Well the state needs to take a little bit of the risk."
Gara’s amendment failed 13 to 25, largely along party lines in the Republican-controlled house.
He also voiced other concerns about the bridge project, including the use of eminent domain by KABATA to buy up property in Government Hill - even though the bridge is not yet ready to go.