Last night the Assembly adopted its list of 15 state legislative priorities. Among them are requests for prison expansion, residential treatment centers and help in the fight against methamphetamine. Topping the list is property tax relief.
Each year the Borough pays for unfunded state mandates, such as $5 million in tax exemptions for senior citizens and disabled veterans. The Assembly is requesting those funds and that the Legislature restore assistance programs like revenue sharing and safe communities, which help pay for libraries and new ambulances. Schools are also on the operating budget priority list. The Assembly is seeking full funding and inflation proofing of school operations. Making up shortfalls in the teachers and public employee retirement systems and granting full funding for student transportation are also included.
Transportation at large is also critical. The Assembly is asking for an increase in funding for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to keep state roads in the Borough plowed and safe.
The Assembly split the priority list into two categories, an operating and capital projects list.
Full funding of a new Su-Valley High School leads the list for the capital projects. The school poses a serious threat to students and teachers because the roof can't support average snow loads.
The Borough is the only community in the state to grow by a school a year. The Assembly is asking the Legislature to reauthorize the reimbursement program for school construction debt to make new schools more affordable.
The proposed ski project at Hatcher Pass also makes the list with requests for road improvements and a land transfer. The project would create a new tourism and recreational destination with its proposed Olympic Class Nordic and alpine ski trails.
The Assembly is also asking for help in managing erosion on the Matanuska River. Last summer close to 400 feet of riverbank collapsed into the state river, forcing one homeowner to lift his home off its foundation and move it.