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KABATA Taking Homes & Businesses Before There's A Project? 2012 Pre-Filed Bills


Dear Neighbors

I'll be heading off to Juneau Saturday, and wanted to share some news about what folks in New York call Chutzpah.

First, the Chutzpah - or, in English - bad, bad, bad behavior.... on the part of the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority (KABATA)

KABATA Negotiating to Take Homes and Businesses Before Knik Bridge Approved.

Here's the latest bit of news from your friends at KABATA. Folks in Anchorage's oldest neighborhood, Government Hill, are not happy.

KABATA, even though no project has been approved or funded, has jumped the gun and is already telling people they are buying their homes and businesses (they have the power to condemn Government Hill property so they can build a huge ditch and then a tunnel under Government Hill as part of the Anchorage approach to the Bridge). Spending millions of your money, for a project we don't even know will go forward is wrong, is an assault on homeowners and business owners, and a poor use of public money. Destroying homes and businesses under the threat of a future power of eminent domain, is offensive. They sent letters seeking to buy property to residents and businesses this fall and summer, and have started negotiations. They may have even concluded some sales to condemn homes and businesses by now.

And for context, here are a few facts on the Knik Bridge you may not know, regardless of your position. First, KABATA (the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority) promised a few years back that the Bridge, and hundreds of millions of dollars of approach roads on either side of Knik Arm, and the bridge and tunnel projects needed to get from Anchorage to the bridge start, would all be privately funded. Well, surprise, there is pending legislation now that KABATA has changed its mind, to require the state to subsidize any private company that builds the billion dollar-plus project. If tolls don't cover the cost of building and operating the bridge, the bill requires the state to pay for all the shortfalls - and, really, how many people are going to pay a $10 - $30 toll to drive a bridge that gets them to Wasilla or Palmer more slowly than the Glenn Highway (oh, you didn't know that? Yup - the bridge is not designed to cut the commute to the population centers in the Valley). The subsidization costs to Alaskans could reach over a billion dollars. No one knows.

2012 Legislative Bills:

I will introduce two bills before session. One is to clarify that texting while driving is dangerous. We all thought we had a law on the books banning it, but a good faith debate among lawyers and judges has resulted in come courts not enforcing the ban, saying the language in the original bill wasn't clear. I think it was, but respect that the law could have been written more clearly. Rather than leave this law in limbo, I and Rep. Bill Thomas of Haines have introduced legislation to reinstate the ban, rather than wait for appeals on the issue. For those of you who want a ban on cell phone talking, three legislators have introduced bills to do that. But it seems those bills may not make it through committee this year. Rather than add our bill to those, we wanted a speedier way to re-instate the texting ban in those areas where courts aren't enforcing it. So Bill and I filed a stand-alone bill that bans typing, and reading a cell phone or computer or similar video screen while driving. There are exceptions for emergencies, emergency personnel and GPS devices, and a few other things.

I will also join with others, and file a bill to allow a 2% reduction in college and state-issued vocational educational loans for students who stay in or move back to Alaska. When you can get a used car loan for 3% interest (you can!), you shouldn't have to pay 7% and 8% for trying to better yourself by going to college or learning a profession.

And I support Sen. Bill Wielechowski's legislation to make sure we don't burn through our savings. We have a projected surplus this coming fiscal year of over $3 billion, and $16 billion in savings, not including the Permanent Fund. We should take roughly $4 billion of that, and use it to pay down our multi-billion dollar debt to the state's teacher health care and pension system; and put $2 billion of that money into the Permanent Fund.

That's it for now. I'm speaking before the chamber of Commerce to give them a different perspective than they've heard on the oil tax debate in a little bit and have to run.

Call if you need anything. And I hope your New Year is off to a good start.

My Best,

[signed] Les Gara


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