I’m struggling to reconcile the priorities of our Legislature. The House recently approved proposed cuts of $1.2 million to SHARP II and an additional $2.043 million to the state’s Behavioral Health Grants. Both programs address the ongoing needs of underserved Alaskans statewide: the first provides doctors to rural Alaska, the second funds residential addiction programs.
Rep. Mark Neuman of Big Lake, chairman of the House finance subcommittee, tells us: “the money-strapped state had to make choices and cut programs.” Meanwhile the proposed Knik Arm Bridge, a 1.7-mile toll bridge which will potentially benefit some Anchorage and Mat-Su commuters, and whose first phase alone is estimated at $900 million, “got only a quick hearing” before moving to the Senate finance committee. The latest KABATA proposal looks to federal dollars for two-thirds of the financing with the state picking up the rest.
Once again, Rep. Neuman, a prime sponsor of the legislation, “has no doubt the bridge between Mat-Su and Anchorage is justified,” despite the lack of a traffic study to justify his feeling justified.
— L. Dekreon-Watsjold