State Senator Bert Stedman visited Petersburg on Friday and met with city leaders across the town and discussed project funding needs for the city during the next legislative session. Since Petersburg will be moved to District 32, this will be the last year Stedman will represent Petersburg in the legislature.
“I’m glad the governor stepped up and provided harbor funding under the Municipal Harbor Facility Grant,” Stedman told the Pilot. Petersburg has requested $3.5 million for the North Harbor replacement and is ranked fifth in the state for being granted those funds.
The request for funding a replacement of the Petersburg Police Department building is, “premature,” according to Stedman. He said he needs an evaluation report on the current facility along with an estimated cost to build or remodel the structure before he can secure funding.
At the school, Stedman reminded the district that they have to be sure the Rae C. Stedman Elementary school remodel is on the Dept. of Education priority project list. Stedman noted: “The list keeps politics out of the selection process and the legislature needs to respect and honor the list.”
Of the upcoming legislative session, Stedman said, “There will be a big whirlwind of activity with lots of smoke, but I don’t think we’ll move the train very far down the track.”
Legislation under discussion during the 90-day session will include oil taxes, school funding and state employee retirement funding. The state’s employee retirement accounts are underfunded by $12 billion.
The governor’s decision to eliminate as many as 300 unfilled state positions to hire workers to operate the state’s new 1500-bed Point MacKenzie prison is, extremely egreagous, according to Stedman. With annual operating costs of $70 million, Stedman said it is cheaper to house Alaska prisoners in Lower 48 facilities.
Stedman is on board to build the first Alaska Class Ferry in the Ketchikan Shipyard. “Build new ferries and retire the old ones and lower the State’s operating costs for the system,” said Stedman.
Stedman even advocated dual engines on the new ferries that can operate on both natural gas and diesel. Now is the time to expand the use of natural gas uses in the state to create a load in Southeast Alaska as the natural gas pipeline debate eventually brings the supply to market, said Stedman.