Legislature(2019 - 2020)ADAMS ROOM 519

05/10/2019 01:30 PM FINANCE

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Audio Topic
01:30:18 PM Start
01:30:47 PM SB19
01:31:17 PM Public Testimony
02:18:46 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony <Time Limit Two Minutes> --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                  HOUSE FINANCE COMMITTEE                                                                                       
                       May 10, 2019                                                                                             
                         1:30 p.m.                                                                                              
1:30:18 PM                                                                                                                    
CALL TO ORDER                                                                                                                 
Co-Chair Foster  called the House Finance  Committee meeting                                                                    
to order at 1:30 p.m.                                                                                                           
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Representative Neal Foster, Co-Chair                                                                                            
Representative Tammie Wilson, Co-Chair                                                                                          
Representative Jennifer Johnston, Vice-Chair                                                                                    
Representative Dan Ortiz, Vice-Chair                                                                                            
Representative Andy Josephson                                                                                                   
Representative Gary Knopp                                                                                                       
Representative Bart LeBon                                                                                                       
Representative Kelly Merrick                                                                                                    
Representative Colleen Sullivan-Leonard                                                                                         
Representative Cathy Tilton                                                                                                     
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
Representative Ben Carpenter                                                                                                    
ALSO PRESENT                                                                                                                  
Dorene  Lorenz, Chair,  Friends of  Jesse Lee  Home, Juneau;                                                                    
Erin Walker-Tolles,  Executive Director,  Catholic Community                                                                    
Services, Juneau.                                                                                                               
PRESENT VIA TELECONFERENCE                                                                                                    
Jennifer  Beckmann,  Central  Area Rural,  Kenai  Peninsula;                                                                    
John  Strasenburgh,   Self,  Talkeetna;  Ruth   Wood,  Self,                                                                    
Talkeetna; Patrick  Reinhart, Alaska Mobility  Coalition and                                                                    
Governor's  Council on  Disabilities and  Special Education,                                                                    
Anchorage;  Susan Lang,  Volunteer  Coordinator, Friends  of                                                                    
the Jesse  Lee Home,  Lowell Point; Marian  Charles, Member,                                                                    
Willow  Library  Association,  Willow; Iris  Darling,  Self,                                                                    
Seward; Brian Okonek, Self, Talkeetna.                                                                                          
CSSSSB 19(FIN)                                                                                                                  
     APPROP: CAPITAL BUDGET; SUPPLEMENTAL                                                                                       
     CSSSSB 19(FIN) was HEARD and HELD in committee for                                                                         
     further consideration.                                                                                                     
CS FOR SPONSOR SUBSTITUTE FOR SENATE BILL NO. 19(FIN)                                                                         
     "An  Act   making  appropriations,   including  capital                                                                    
     appropriations,       supplemental      appropriations,                                                                    
     reappropriations,  and  other appropriations;  amending                                                                    
     appropriations;  making  appropriations  to  capitalize                                                                    
     funds; and providing for an effective date."                                                                               
1:30:47 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair  Wilson reviewed  the agenda  for the  meeting. She                                                                    
indicated the  committee would hear public  testimony on the                                                                    
capital budget. She intended to  have a committee substitute                                                                    
on the  following Monday and  would hear amendments  at that                                                                    
^PUBLIC TESTIMONY                                                                                                             
1:31:17 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Wilson OPENED Public Testimony for SB 19.                                                                              
1:31:27 PM                                                                                                                    
JENNIFER BECKMANN, CENTRAL AREA  RURAL, KENAI PENINSULA (via                                                                    
teleconference),  spoke  in  support   of  a  strong  public                                                                    
transportation  system. She  purported that  Alaska invested                                                                    
millions of dollars each year  in its transportation systems                                                                    
that primarily  focused on roads and  bridge infrastructure.                                                                    
The result  made the state  heavily reliable  on automobiles                                                                    
and  driving.  She stated  that  limiting  access to  public                                                                    
transportation  options   negatively  impacted  individuals'                                                                    
ability  to get  to work,  access healthcare,  and shop  for                                                                    
necessities.  She spoke  in  support of  the  $1 million  in                                                                    
public  and community  state matching  funds for  public and                                                                    
community  transportation   that  leveraged  much   more  in                                                                    
federal funding.                                                                                                                
1:33:20 PM                                                                                                                    
JOHN  STRASENBURGH,  SELF, TALKEETNA  (via  teleconference),                                                                    
spoke against  funding for the South  Denali Visitor Center.                                                                    
He discussed  the stunning views  from the  proposed visitor                                                                    
center site  called  site one.  He  shared information about                                                                    
the  planning and  public process  and Environmental  Impact                                                                    
Statement (EIS) in  2006 that chose the  site and maintained                                                                    
a  record of  decision. He  communicated that  the site  was                                                                    
changed  by  amending the  record  of  decision without  any                                                                    
public  notification or  process. The  new site,   site two                                                                     
had  been  changed  significantly  to alpine  tundra  in  an                                                                    
ecologically fragile  area over a  mile away from  site one.                                                                    
He  related that  the  new  cite was  not  supported by  the                                                                    
public or  the Denali State  Park master plan. The  new cite                                                                    
required more analysis and public process.                                                                                      
Vice-Chair  Ortiz asked  about  the statement  that the  new                                                                    
center was  not supported  by the  public. He  asked whether                                                                    
Mr. Strasenburgh  had proof  to back  up the  statement. Mr.                                                                    
Strasenburgh pointed  to a borough  resolution by  the Parks                                                                    
Recreation  and  Trails  advisory  board  objecting  to  the                                                                    
change  from  site one  to  site  two.  He spoke  to  public                                                                    
meetings where the citizenry broadly  disapproved of the new                                                                    
1:37:45 PM                                                                                                                    
RUTH  WOOD,  SELF,  TALKEETNA  (via  teleconference),  spoke                                                                    
against  the  location and  proposal  for  the South  Denali                                                                    
Visitor Center. She  noted that she had worked  on the issue                                                                    
since 2006.  She supported the original  site. She mentioned                                                                    
the EIS  study that addressed the  environmental sensitivity                                                                    
of site  two. She believed  that changing the  site required                                                                    
further National Environmental Policy  Act (NEPA) study. She                                                                    
examined budget  documents and was  uncertain what  the $2.5                                                                    
million  capital appropriation  was allocated  for. The  $25                                                                    
million price  tag for the  visitor center was  estimated in                                                                    
2006 and  she deduced that  costs had risen. She  noted that                                                                    
the  state,  federal  government,  and the  National    Park                                                                    
Service  signed the  original document,  which was  suddenly                                                                    
cast  aside for  a site  that was  not vetted.  She reported                                                                    
that there was  not a road to site two.  She emphasized that                                                                    
 everything about  the project  concerned  her.  She opposed                                                                    
spending $2.5  million for  a questionable  expenditure when                                                                    
the state was in a budget crisis.                                                                                               
Representative Merrick asked if  any private money was going                                                                    
into the project.                                                                                                               
Ms. Wood  answered that she  had not  been able to  find any                                                                    
reliable  information that  was  not hearsay  or rumor.  She                                                                    
could  not determine  if any  of the  $2.5 million  or other                                                                    
funding was coming  from industry. She relayed  that she had                                                                    
queried  the Legislative  Finance  Division (LFD)  regarding                                                                    
the appropriation  and it was characterized  as  arbitrary.                                                                     
She  shared  that currently  cabins,  a  campground, and   a                                                                    
spectacular  and easy  trail  existed.  She did  not support                                                                    
putting a  building in  that location -  it would  not serve                                                                    
Alaskans or visitors.                                                                                                           
Representative Josephson  reported that  he had been  in the                                                                    
Princess Hotel  [Princess Hotels  and Resorts] in  the state                                                                    
park [Denali State Park]. He  inquired whether she was aware                                                                    
of interest by Princess to  build another hotel or resort in                                                                    
proximity of  the existing hotel.  Ms. Wood answered  that a                                                                    
Native corporation had  an inholding in the  state park that                                                                    
was interested in building a  hotel and had discussions with                                                                    
the state.  She did not  have current information.  She felt                                                                    
that if  a facility was built,  it should be located  in the                                                                    
original site  that had  been carefully  vetted via  an EIS.                                                                    
She  understood that  building  on site  two  would be  more                                                                    
expensive. She  was certain there  was interest, but  it was                                                                    
all hearsay. She stated that  the existing facilities served                                                                    
customers, visitors,  and Alaskans.  She believed  the trail                                                                    
was  the most  spectacular  hike available  to visitors  and                                                                    
1:45:43 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  LeBon asked  Ms. Wood  if she  had knowledge                                                                    
about any support  from the National Park  Service. Ms. Wood                                                                    
answered  that the  park service  had been  involved in  the                                                                    
original   EIS,  but   she  did   not  know   what  specific                                                                    
involvement  they  had outside  of  trying  to take  visitor                                                                    
pressure  off the  national park.  She believed  that people                                                                    
came to Alaska  to go to Denali National Park  and the state                                                                    
park would not  divert many visitors. She  recalled that the                                                                    
National Park  Service acknowledged that further  NEPA study                                                                    
would  be required  for site  two. She  did not  believe the                                                                    
park service  would build the  site nor could  build without                                                                    
another NEPA study.                                                                                                             
1:48:08 PM                                                                                                                    
DORENE  LORENZ, CHAIR,  FRIENDS OF  JESSE LEE  HOME, JUNEAU,                                                                    
shared that since  1997 the legislature had  worked with the                                                                    
people  of  Seward  to  restore  the  Jesse  Lee  Home.  She                                                                    
detailed that over $3 million  had been expended on building                                                                    
stabilization,   architecture,  and   historic  preservation                                                                    
engineering. In addition, the curriculum  for the Career and                                                                    
Technical  Education (CTE)  charter  high  school that  will                                                                    
inhabit the building had been  developed. The school will be                                                                    
aligned with  the nearby Alaska Vocational  Technical Center                                                                    
(AVTECH)  center.  However,  in  the past  year,  the  $1.25                                                                    
million that  had been earmarked for  restoring the building                                                                    
was  appropriated  to the  City  of  Seward to  destroy  the                                                                    
building.  She informed  the members  that the  building was                                                                    
the home  of Benny  Benson where the  Alaska flag  had first                                                                    
been  designed,   sown,  and   flown.  She   continued  that                                                                    
historically, the  building had been  a home and  school for                                                                    
children of  Japanese descent, native, and  white races that                                                                    
had  all  been  treated   equally.  She  was  requesting  an                                                                    
amendment for  a change from  language that  enabled tearing                                                                    
the  building  down to  an  appropriation  for its  original                                                                    
purpose.  She requested  that the  appropriation be  removed                                                                    
from  the Department  of  Commerce,  Community and  Economic                                                                    
Development  (DCCED)   to  the   Department  of   Labor  and                                                                    
Workforce   Development  (DLWD).   The  administration   was                                                                    
extremely interested in the success  of the project. She was                                                                    
working with DLWD and the  Department of Education and Early                                                                    
Development (DEED). The organization  had a 60 percent match                                                                    
for  federal funds  and  was saving  state  funding for  the                                                                    
match.   The  Alaska   Industrial  Development   and  Export                                                                    
Authority (AIDEA)  had offered  the project  a loan  but the                                                                    
organization rejected it  in the hope of  avoiding debt. She                                                                    
emphasized  that she  was requesting  an  amendment and  not                                                                    
additional funding.                                                                                                             
1:53:40 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Foster  stated his understanding of  the testimony.                                                                    
He  relayed that  $1.2 million  was  included in  the FY  19                                                                    
budget for  abatement and she  was requesting  and amendment                                                                    
to allow restoration. Ms. Lorenz answered affirmatively.                                                                        
Representative  Sullivan-Leonard asked  about the  community                                                                    
investment in  the restoration  of the  Jesse Lee  Home. Ms.                                                                    
Lorenz  emphasized that  the home  was a  statewide project.                                                                    
She explained  that during the  past year the  Outward Bound                                                                    
program  had students  clean up  the  grounds, fix  fencing,                                                                    
etc. The Coast Guard worked  on the building every time they                                                                    
were in  town and  companies from Anchorage,  Fairbanks, and                                                                    
Kenai donated time, materials, and  services to help install                                                                    
water and sewer lines. The Jesse  Lee Home was a foster home                                                                    
and the former residents currently lived statewide.                                                                             
Representative Sullivan-Leonard was  supportive of the home.                                                                    
She  asked  for  a   distinction  regarding  its  historical                                                                    
designation. Ms.  Lorenz answered that  the home was  on the                                                                    
National   Historical  Register   and  was   on  the   state                                                                    
historical  register   and  considered   one  of   the  most                                                                    
historically  important  buildings  by  the  state  Historic                                                                    
Preservation Commission.                                                                                                        
Co-Chair  Foster  remembered   that  the  appropriation  for                                                                    
abatement occurred prior to FY  19. Ms. Lorenz answered that                                                                    
prior  to the  past year,  matching funds  were removed  and                                                                    
reappropriated  to  the  Department  of  Transportation  and                                                                    
Public Facilities (DOT).  The $1 million that  had been left                                                                    
over was the funding the organization would like to use.                                                                        
1:57:11 PM                                                                                                                    
ERIN WALKER-TOLLES,  EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR,  CATHOLIC COMMUNITY                                                                    
SERVICES,  JUNEAU,  spoke  in  support  of  the  public  and                                                                    
community  transportation state  match.  She shared  details                                                                    
about providing  transportation services to seniors  and the                                                                    
disabled  and noted  that transport  was  the major  service                                                                    
Catholic Community  Services provided. The  organization did                                                                    
not own  all its  vehicles and  could not  operate Americans                                                                    
with   Disabilities  Act   (ADA)   compliant  vehicles   for                                                                    
paratransit services if the communities  it served could not                                                                    
afford to purchase vans for  their fleets. She reported that                                                                    
the organization did own 12  vans and listed the communities                                                                    
they  served:   Haines;  Skagway;  Kake;   Wrangel;  Hoonah;                                                                    
Angoon;  Yakutat; Craig;  and  Klawock.  The community  vans                                                                    
were the only  way for seniors to get a  ride from Craig and                                                                    
Klawock to  Ketchikan. She  indicated that  the organization                                                                    
was  constantly  fund  raising   to  provide  operating  and                                                                    
capital funding match money.  The federal government matched                                                                    
$4 million  to the  states  $1 million  match. She  was very                                                                    
concerned  that  without  state  funds  designated  for  the                                                                    
purpose, many seniors would not  get to the doctor or senior                                                                    
centers. The transport was also  the delivery method for the                                                                    
Meals on  Wheels program. She  requested that  the committee                                                                    
support the full matching funding.                                                                                              
2:00:11 PM                                                                                                                    
PATRICK REINHART,  ALASKA MOBILITY COALITION  AND GOVERNOR'S                                                                    
COUNCIL  ON DISABILITIES  AND  SPECIAL EDUCATION,  ANCHORAGE                                                                    
(via  teleconference), testified  in support  of the  public                                                                    
and community  transportation state match. He  believed that                                                                    
the   appropriation  was   important;   the  match   funding                                                                    
supported  communities  throughout  the state.  He  provided                                                                    
information  about the  history  of the  funding source.  He                                                                    
relayed that approximately 15 years  ago he was the director                                                                    
of  the State  Independent Living  Council. He  travelled to                                                                    
Washington  DC, accompanied  by the  former director  of the                                                                    
Governors  Council on Disabilities  and Special Education to                                                                    
advocate for more federal transit  dollars. He reported that                                                                    
one of  the frequent  questions the Alaska  delegation asked                                                                    
had been  how much the  state contributed for the  service -                                                                    
it had been  zero. He subsequently began  advocating for the                                                                    
state  to  contribute  funding resulting  in  federal  match                                                                    
funding  that  grew  rapidly.   The  funding  enabled  small                                                                    
communities  to  receive  community  transport  funding.  He                                                                    
spoke  in  support  of  transit  services  for  seniors  and                                                                    
individuals with  disabilities. He  appreciated the  item in                                                                    
the budget.                                                                                                                     
2:03:54 PM                                                                                                                    
SUSAN LANG, VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR,  FRIENDS OF THE JESSE LEE                                                                    
HOME, LOWELL  POINT (via  teleconference), spoke  in support                                                                    
of the  Jesse Lee Home.  She provided information  about the                                                                    
groups  of  volunteers  that  worked   on  the  home,  which                                                                    
included  two groups  from Outward  Bound  in Colorado.  She                                                                    
related that her  organization had a contract  with the City                                                                    
of  Seward to  take possession  of  the home  on August  30,                                                                    
2019.  She indicated  that despite  the existing  agreement,                                                                    
the city  applied for funds  to tear down the  building. The                                                                    
home had served as  an educational institution that included                                                                    
Alaska  natives. The  home was  home  to Ephraim  Kalmakoff,                                                                    
winner  of the  Mt Marathon  race in  1928 and  Peter Gordon                                                                    
Gould  who was  an Unangax  from  the village  of Unga  that                                                                    
founded  the  Alaska  Pacific University  among  other  very                                                                    
successful  alumni. She  intreated for  the survival  of the                                                                    
2:06:33 PM                                                                                                                    
MARIAN CHARLES,  MEMBER, WILLOW LIBRARY  ASSOCIATION, WILLOW                                                                    
(via  teleconference),  asked  for  support  of  the  Willow                                                                    
Library  replacement and  upgrade  project. The  association                                                                    
requested funding  from money  that was  reappropriated from                                                                    
the  Talkeetna Library  Fund  and  additional state  General                                                                    
Funds (GF).  The associations   volunteer board  had secured                                                                    
almost  65   percent  of  the  $5.7   million  project.  She                                                                    
delineated that  the library was connected  to the community                                                                    
center and would  double in size. She discussed  the uses of                                                                    
the funding  for items like  upgrading the  sprinkler system                                                                    
and insulation. She indicated that  $1.7 million came from a                                                                    
grant  from the  Mat-Su Health  Foundation and  $1.9 million                                                                    
from the borough.  A contribution from the state  could be a                                                                    
tipping  point for  the project.  She shared  that they  had                                                                    
submitted grants  to several oil  companies and had  been in                                                                    
discussions  with  the   Rasmussen  Foundation  and  Foraker                                                                    
Group. She emphasized that the  community of Willow strongly                                                                    
supported  the   project.  She  spoke  to   other  community                                                                    
fundraising efforts. She reported  that the request had been                                                                    
submitted to the CAPSIS system.                                                                                                 
Co-Chair  Wilson  asked for  the  ratio  of funding  between                                                                    
library replacement  and upgrades  to the  community center.                                                                    
Ms.  Charles answered  it was  approximately 25  percent for                                                                    
the community  center and  75 percent  for the  library. Co-                                                                    
Chair  Wilson asked  if  the project  was  about $2  million                                                                    
short  of  full  funding.  Ms.   Charles  responded  in  the                                                                    
2:11:00 PM                                                                                                                    
IRIS DARLING,  SELF, SEWARD (via  teleconference), testified                                                                    
in support of  the language change related to  the Jesse Lee                                                                    
Home.  She mentioned  the broad  community  support for  the                                                                    
building and  significant amount of local  effort to restore                                                                    
the facility.  She emphasized that once  a historic facility                                                                    
was destroyed it  was gone forever. She was not  in favor of                                                                    
the destruction of the home.  She indicated that the project                                                                    
was reinvigorated  and was on  the way to  full restoration.                                                                    
She  shared  that her  father  was  one of  the  community's                                                                    
founding  fathers. She  wanted  to continue  the efforts  to                                                                    
preserve the historic structure.                                                                                                
2:13:07 PM                                                                                                                    
BRIAN  OKONEK, SELF,  TALKEETNA (via  teleconference), spoke                                                                    
against  the proposed  Denali  Visitor  Center facility.  He                                                                    
reiterated the  earlier testifiers claims that  the plan was                                                                    
changed  without  notice or  public  input.  He stated  that                                                                    
there was controversy  over whether the plan  would meet the                                                                    
need  of the  public and  the park.  He believed  that state                                                                    
parks  in general  needed  more support  from  the state  to                                                                    
provide for management, maintenance,  and staffing needs. He                                                                    
thought spending $25 million on  the center would be totally                                                                    
inappropriate  at  present  due  to  the  states   budgetary                                                                    
concerns. The management plans had  never stipulated how the                                                                    
state would gain revenue from the facility.                                                                                     
Co-Chair  Wilson asked  about  the location  change for  the                                                                    
facility.  She  asked  if  the  hearings  had  included  the                                                                    
location  in one  place  and there  had  been no  additional                                                                    
public testimony once  the new site had  been announced. Mr.                                                                    
Okonek answered  in the affirmative.  He explained  that the                                                                    
public had  been told  the change  was insignificant  and it                                                                    
was only being moved one  mile. He countered that the change                                                                    
was  significant.   The  plan   moved  the  project   to  an                                                                    
environmentally  sensitive  area  that   was  not  zoned  to                                                                    
support the type of development.                                                                                                
Co-Chair Wilson  noted there was  currently $2.5  million in                                                                    
the  project  for  design. She  believed  that  the  project                                                                    
should  go back  to  the drawing  board  and include  public                                                                    
Co-Chair Wilson CLOSED public testimony.                                                                                        
Co-Chair Wilson  asked members to provide  amendments to her                                                                    
office as soon as possible  by the following Monday. Further                                                                    
committee   discussion   ensued  regarding   the   amendment                                                                    
2:18:46 PM                                                                                                                    
The meeting was adjourned at 2:18 p.m.                                                                                          

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