|  October 2, 2014  |  
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GARA: It’s Not Rocket Science—Prioritize Education Not Bailouts and Boondoggles

Reckless Mega-project and oil industry bailout funds should go to stopping teacher cuts

Today Representative Les Gara said the solution to helping Alaska’s students is to re-prioritize spending away from last-minute oil refinery bailouts and controversial megaprojects and put it into education.

“Alaska’s parents and students are smart.  They know funding to give students true opportunity is a priority over spending on questionable mega-projects and mega-bailouts that should have been addressed with more responsible policies,” said Gara who’s advocated to reverse the past three years of education cuts and to stop future ones. “It isn’t rocket science.”

In the waning weeks of session, the Legislature approved $50 million in spending for Tesoro – a refinery that didn’t ask for the money and admits it doesn’t need it.  In its letter simply asking for an underlying bill that was hijacked by $150 million in unaccountable bailout spending, Tesoro said it would be on stable footing if just allowed a renewal of its contract with the state to purchase royalty oil for its refinery. 

“Writing state checks to companies that admit they don’t need a handout takes money away from student opportunity and achievement,” said Gara. “You can’t just spend the public’s money on everything,” said Gara.

As a responsible alternative to just handing refineries money across the board, Gara and others proposed low interest loans to help refineries who need it, with a 5-year repayment holiday.

Gara and Representative Andy Josephson (D-Anchorage) also proposed amendments to the capital budget to stop the waste of $75 million on the controversial $1.6 billion Knik Arm Bridge and related roads, and to remove $55 million for the Susitna Dam. The $5 billion dam could be unnecessary should one of two separate gasline proposals the state is already spending close to a half billion dollars on get built. 

“We can’t spend money on three duplicative energy projects, each of which would provide more energy than the state needs.  Not at a time when state projections under the state’s new oil tax shows production declining by 45% in the next 10 years – contrary to industry TV claims that oil production is increasing,” said Gara.

“The Legislature should consider moving that $75 million towards a strong education package. That’s what’s needed.  A $400 Base Student Allocation increase over last year’s education funding would stop and reverse cuts in most school districts, and then more modest funding can reverse cuts in the future,” said Gara.

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