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House cuts $17 million for U-Med Road, Mayor wants the money for port

By Liz Raines Photojournalist: Cale Green - 7:09 PM March 17, 2017

After a week’s worth of work, the Alaska House is now poised to pass a budget. Missing from it is money Anchorage had its eye on — $17 million for the controversial U-Med Road project. The project has been stalled since Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz withdrew support in 2015.

Democrats won support to give the money back to the state for education, killing the project.

“Moving this $17 million of a project that has been delayed and has been told by the local municipality that they do not want to go forward with this, to the public education fund I think is a great move,” said Rep. Paul Seaton (R) Co-Chair of the Finance Committee.

But it’s $17 million Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz says the city still needs.

“The Port of Anchorage is the most pressing infrastructure need in the city, and indeed for the whole state, and I hope we get to that, and the money should be spent there,” Berkowitz said in an interview Thursday.

The U-Med Road money didn’t go silently. In fact, some House Republicans said Tuesday their support for the project was personal. So much so, they couldn’t keep from getting emotional.

“Your neighborhood, your ability to walk your dog, is more important than my ability to get my son to the hospital?” Rep. Dan Saddler said sternly to colleagues on the House floor, later apologizing. “I beg your pardon, I retract my statements,” Saddler said.

The Senate and the Governor must still agree to the cut. The House hopes to have a final vote on the budget Monday.

KTVA 11’s Liz Raines can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.

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