Upper Lynn Canal leaders Representative Sara Hannan (left) and Senator Jesse Kiehl (right).

On Thursday, Governor Mike Dunleavy signed off on the state’s capital budget passed by the legislature, but not before making a few line-item vetoes to the document. KHNS’ Henry Leasia spoke with the Upper Lynn Canal’s legislative representatives to hear their thoughts on the final capital budget. 

Senator Jesse Kiehl says that he is pleased with the infrastructure spending passed in the final capital budget. 

“So that was providing the match for federal infrastructure money–highways, bridges, airports. And, of course, the overhauls of the marine highway vessels. The annual maintenance that has to be done to keep those ships Coastguard certified and on the water,” Kiehl says. 

In addition, the capital budget resolves a complicated budget issue known as the “reverse sweep,” in which money from the constitutional budget reserve is transferred to a number of different state bank accounts.

“That allows the college scholarships to go through, the WWAMI medical education, and PCE to be paid which is, of course, critical in our district,” Kiehl says.

Power Cost Equalization (PCE) subsidizes energy in rural Alaska, which keeps residents’ electric bills down. 

The governor did veto spending on a number of items in the legislature’s capital budget. 

Representative Sara Hannan says she is particularly disappointed that the governor vetoed spending for addiction treatment.

“Building addiction treatment programs, I think policy-wise is a really important thing for us to be investing in. If we want to truly impact crime in Alaska, where we know that most of our crime behavior has a link to addictive behavior health issues,” Hannan says.

Hannan also worries about reduced capital budget funding for projects that help generate private-sector jobs. 

“So you know if you’re talking about statewide weatherization programs through AHFC, those go to local small-town contractors helping individual homeowners get weatherization done. That’s good for local businesses,” Hannan says.

The governor has yet to sign off on the legislature’s operating budget. A number of items in that document, such as school bond debt reimbursement, will have a significant impact on communities in the Upper Lynn Canal. 

Senator Kiehl and Representative Hanan will host a series of meetings with constituents in Haines, Skagway, and Klukwan in the coming days. Below are the venues and times for their town halls.

Town Hall – Chilkat Center, Sat. Aug 10 from 3 – 5 pm
Open Office – Mountain Market & Cafe, Mon. Aug 12  from 9 – 11 am

Town Hall – Hospitality House, Sun. Aug 11  from 1 – 3 pm

Town Hall – AB Hall, Mon. Aug 12 from 6 – 8 pm
Open Office – Library, Tues. Aug 13  from 11 am – 1 pm