The city of Kenai and the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly have both adopted resolutions asking the governor to reconsider some of his various budget proposals. In the case of Kenai and the borough, it had to do with collecting taxes on oil and gas infrastructure. Next week, the Soldotna city council will entertain a resolution that asks the governor to take a more long-term view of the budget and what it means for cities.
“The thought was to send a resolution that was a big more generic, but I was going to send a letter that was going to be more specific in terms of the specific effects in the area," said Mayor Nels Anderson.
"For example, the hospital would lose $10 million. And the hospital employs 880 people here; the effects (the budget) would have on the senior center, the effects it would have on LOVE, Inc. helping a lot of the homeless people, those grants would be gone. I was going to address (those) in a separate letter. The council resolution was going to be a bit more general.”
That resolution states, in part, that while the state’s economic recession was projected to end this year, job losses associated with budget cuts would likely extend the recession. It points out that the governor’s budget was presented with no analysis of the economic or social impacts it might bring.
It’s actually similar to a resolution the city council adopted three years ago, as the state’s budget woes were just beginning. That resolution also called on the governor and legislature to put together a long-term financial plan that would create stability without depressing the economy.
“The governor has thrown out an interesting proposal," Anderson said. "Previously, the governor was the adult in the house and the legislature was the spoiled children. I think it’s kind of reversed at this point. We will see. Maybe he’s throwing it out for effect and expects the legislature will have to then do something, which they haven’t for the past few years. They’ve just used the Congressional Budget Reserve instead of making a decision on how to meet revenues. But he’s serious, apparently, in terms of giving a permanent fund to everybody and not raising any taxes, and those two things just don’t go along. You can’t get a balanced budget with that, at least from my perspective.”
Like most municipal leaders, Anderson says he has some concern that without state funding to the local level, important infrastructure projects could be subject to the political winds of the day. He says the city of Soldotna is looking at making big upgrades to the sewer system, potentially even partnering with the city of Kenai, and it wouldn’t serve anyone well for that to become a political issue.
“Right now, the sewage we’re dumping into the Kenai River meets basically all the standards except for some minor elevations of copper and, I believe, zinc. And I don’t think we’re doing any harm to the fish. But inherently, it doesn’t sound good to dump sewage into the Kenai River. We’re doing a study right now...my guess is it would cost about $40 million to move the sewage plant to somewhere along the Inlet and it would be really nice to have some assistance in terms of either federal or state funding for that kind of a project, rather than having it all borne at the local level.”
The council will vote on Mayor Anderson’s resolution when it meets Wednesday at 6 p.m.