- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 14, 2016

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz plans to ask state lawmakers to fund nearly $300 million in improvements for the Port of Anchorage and to make several law changes designed to give local governments more financial flexibility.

Berkowitz submitted his legislative request Friday to the city’s assembly. The document includes a list of funding items and bills that Anchorage is seeking from the state Legislature, The Alaska Public Radio Network reported (https://bit.ly/2htTiAl).

The one major capital budget project included on the list is the $298 in funding for the Port of Anchorage, which city officials say is beneficial to the entire state and in need of repair. The request comes after Berkowitz tried to get lawmakers to add $290 million for the port improvement project to the statewide bond package last year.

Ona Brause, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff, said the city had fewer requests on its seven-page legislative program this year for state lawmakers to consider compared to last year.

“In the past, the legislative programs have been 50, 60 pages deep,” Brause said. “And with the way the state is dealing with the fiscal situation we don’t expect them to have very large capital budgets.”

The other requests from the city are aimed at adjusting state laws that hinder Anchorage’s ability to raise revenues, Brause said. One request seeks to have the municipalities set their own property tax exemptions, while another involves changes to the state’s criminal justice reform bill that lowered fines for traffic violations.

The city is also asking the state to get rid of a “mandatory sprinkler system exemption” in state law that shifts more than $815,000 of the tax burden onto property owners, according to Berkowitz‘ administration.

Berkowitz also wants to have the state replace the current municipal revenue sharing program with a community dividend. The program uses an endowment model similar to the state Permanent Fund Dividend to redistribute the state’s wealth to local governments. Anchorage has struggled with budgeting as the amount distributed to the city from the program has ranged from $20 million to $4 million, Brouse said.

“Our request focuses on the largest infrastructure need for the municipality coupled with legislation that frees up municipalities to make decisions at a local level that they have been prevented to (make) by the state legislation in the past,” Brause said.

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Information from: KSKA-FM, https://www.kska.org


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