U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said his agency discovered nearly half a billion dollars of previously allocated money. The money was earmarked between 2003 and 2006. For whatever reason, states never spent the money.
“You know I don’t know every reason, but it really doesn’t make any difference,” Secretary LaHood said on a Friday conference call. “The fact is the money was not spent, and in the no-earmark era, we need to spend it. And in an era when unemployment and the construction building trades much higher than other industries, we need to get the money out the door.”
Alaska is slated to receive more than $20 million. It must submit its plan for federal approval by October 1st, then obligate it by the end of the year. The state must select construction-ready-projects and show how the money will be spent. Construction can wait until next year, or at least warmer, brighter weather.
Governor Sean Parnell will accept the money, even though he’s been reluctant to take federal dollars in the past.
The announcement caught the state Department of Transportaion by surprise, said Brenda Hewitt, with the state DOT. Officials there are deciding which projects to fund, and according to Hewitt, that should not be a problem.
“There are so many needs for transportation for Alaska. We have such a huge state and our transportation needs are pretty diverse,” she said.
The move is part of President Barack Obama’s “we can’t wait” approach. The president is sidestepping Congress in hopes of showing would-be voters he’s more proactive than the legislative branch.
The announcement comes just three months before voters take to the polls to elect a president in an election where jobs and unemployment are the major themes.
Politics, Secretary LaHood insisted, had nothing to do with the announcement.
- The City and Borough of Juneau Lands Committee will discuss a proposal to give Indian Point, also known as Auke Cape, back to the Auk'w Kwaan at its Oct. 23 meeting.
- Jeremie Shaun Tinney, 39, was sentenced to 220 days in prison and fined $3,000 for failing to stop for a peace officer, driving while intoxicated, and assault during the Dec. 3, 2016, incident.
- A lawsuit filed in federal court this week seeks to remove the residency requirement for people gathering signatures for state ballot initiatives.
- For the second time in two years, a Skagway political figure has been ordered to pay a fine for incomplete financial disclosures. Assembly hopeful Dan Henry failed to disclose substantial debt on his candidate paperwork. He will still be able to run for office in the upcoming election.