A Southeast lawmaker wants to bring Alaska’s transportation issues to the forefront -- by funding them in an amendment to the state constitution.
Rep. Peggy Wilson (R-Wrangell) is proposing a dedicated transportation fund. Her House Joint Resolution 10 has cleared the House Transportation Committee, and is headed for the House Judiciary Committee.
HJR 10 would need a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate before making it onto the ballot for voters to decide if the fund should become part of the constitution. Wilson, who chairs the Transportation Committee, wants to seed the fund with $2 billion before it becomes self-sufficient.
“We need to invest money for the future, and that's one of the ways,” Wilson said.
Fellow committee member Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (D-Sitka) is concerned about setting aside so much money from the general fund.
“Coming up with two billion dollars in this fiscal climate is no easy task," Kreiss-Tomkins said.
Under the current system, revenue generated from services like Department of Motor Vehicles fees, fuel taxes, and taxes on rental cars goes to the state's general fund. HJR 10 would divert up to 50 percent of that revenue to the newly created transportation fund, to cover the cost of projects.
“It can be airports, It can be roads, it can be harbors," Wilson said.
The fund would be managed by a self-governing body.
"Projects would be rated on -- it's sort of a merit-driven process -- that demonstrates a need for a project if there's a lot of traffic, if the quality of the bridge or pavement is low,” Kreiss-Tomkins said.
Wilson says Alaska used to have a dedicated transportation fund, but it was removed from the constitution when the fuel tax was increased.
Contact Adam Pinsker