Short-lived proposition to cut funds for Alaska’s gasline corporation dies in committee

Rep. Tammie Wilson, R- North Pole, reads through a series of amendments to the state’s budget as Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, listens, during the House Resources on Tuesday in Juneau. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

Updated March 9, 2017 | 4:30 p.m.

Two House Republicans proposed stripping the Alaska gasline corporation of more than $10 million this week during a finance committee meeting.

In the end, the proposals were tossed out, but they served as a warning shot to the corporation which has seen its finances come under increasing scrutiny from lawmakers working to trim the state’s budget.

In some ways, the first proposal to strip funding from the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation wasn’t a surprise.

The corporation is currently being audited by a legislative committee, and its president has appeared before lawmakers who questioned the corporation’s perceived lack of financial transparency.

In a House Finance committee meeting this week, North Pole Republican Tammie Wilson proposed cutting more than $10 million from the state’s operating budget earmarked for the corporation.

“It doesn’t belong in the operating budget,” Wilson said. “And not just that, I think the bigger discussion is, what project are we talking about and what one are we funding at this point?”

She’s referring to the two separate funds the legislature has funneled money into for two separate gasline projects. One, a smaller diameter in-state pipeline; the other, the massive Alaska LNG project that would pipe gas down for the North Slope, then ship it to markets in Asia.

Lawmakers have continually questioned whether the corporation has been mixing money from both accounts.

Anchorage Republican Lance Pruitt proposed a similar amendment to the budget, highlighting the corporation’s mission to develop gas infrastructure.

“Well if they’re an infrastructure project, shouldn’t they be competing with the other infrastructure projects that are out there,” Pruitt said.

Both Pruitt and Wilson said they aren’t looking to defund the corporation, but they don’t want to see the state paying for it out of its operating budget.

The two Republicans got some pushback from other members of the finance committee.  

Rep. David Guttenberg, D-Fairbanks, said the corporation is working on two gasline projects as one is a backup for the other.

Additionally, Guttenberg said,  Gov. Bill Walker has been communicating with the federal government  and cutting funds for the corporation could send a mixed message.

“If we start pulling this money back, it’s going to tell them that we don’t really care and they don’t have to do anything. We don’t want to do that,” Guttenberg said.

Wilson’s amendment was shot down on a bipartisan 7-3 vote.  And Lance Pruitt withdrew his, after that vote.

The corporation isn’t asking the legislature for any more money this year. But, it has asked lawmakers to approve a transfer of funds from its in-state gasline project to the Alaska LNG project.

Corporation spokesperson Rosetta Alcantra said it’s not clear what the agency will do if that transfer isn’t approved.

“We haven’t fleshed out a plan,” she said.

She said the corporation would try to use the funds it currently has, but didn’t elaborate on specifics. 

Alcantra said the corporation has taken steps to be more transparent to lawmakers. She said it has been giving bi-monthly reports to legislators.

And, offering a deeper dive for legislators willing to keep quiet.

“We’ve also been asked about working with individual legislators to do a confidentiality agreement. We have started that ball rolling, AGDC is very interested in working with the legislature and the ones, the individuals who want to peek in the tent,” Alcantra said.

So far, Alcantra said, no one has signed one of those agreements.

 

Editor’s note: This story has been updated from a previous version to add a response from the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation. 

Posted March 8, 2017 | 4:30 p.m.

Two House Republicans want to cut funding for the state’s gas line corporation. During a House Finance committee meeting, Rep. Tammie Wilson proposed cutting more than $10 million from the state’s operating budget, earmarked for the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation.

“It doesn’t belong in the operating budget,” Wilson said.  “And not just that, I think the bigger discussion is, what project are we talking about and what one are we funding at this point?”

She’s referring to the two separate funds the legislature has funneled money into for two separate gasline projects. One, a smaller diameter in-state pipeline; the other, the massive Alaska LNG project that would pipe gas down for the North Slope, then ship it to markets in Asia.

Anchorage Republican Lance Pruitt proposed a similar amendment to the budget, highlighting the corporation’s mission to develop gas infrastructure.

“Well if they’re an infrastructure project, shouldn’t they be competing with the other infrastructure projects that are out there,” Pruitt said.

Pruitt and Wilson said infrastructure projects should compete for capital funds, not money used to operate the state.

The two Republicans got some pushback from other members of the finance committee.  

Rep. David Guttenberg, D-Fairbanks, said the corporation is working on two gasline projects as one is a backup for the other.

Additionally, Guttenberg said,  Gov. Bill Walker has been communicating with the federal government  and cutting funds for the corporation could send a mixed message.

“If we start pulling this money back, it’s going to tell them that we don’t really care and they don’t have to do anything. We don’t want to do that,” Guttenberg said.

Wilson’s amendment was shot down on a 7-3 vote.

Rosetta Alcantra, a spokesperson for Alaska’s Gasline Development Corporation, did not have a response to the potential funding cut before this story aired.

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