Anchorage requests $670 million in state budget, including $350 million for port

Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan is requesting $350 million from the state for the troubled Port of Anchorage. The port appropriation request is by far the largest chunk of the roughly $670 million the municipality is requesting in the upcoming state budget. The requests were presented to Anchorage legislators on Tuesday afternoon. Sullivan’s priorities, including the port, total about $389 million.

According to the narrative attached to the request for the port, “The Municipality now exercises complete control over the Project and determines how state and local funds are utilized. As of August 2014, the Municipality has shifted the goal of the project from what was an ‘expansion’ to a modernization initiative.”

“Modernization” is one way to put it. Anchorage  has been trying to expand the troubled port for more than a decade. Because of a failed design, and flawed federal oversight, about $300 million has been spent on the project and it still hasn’t been expanded. The municipality did get new roads, utilities, and land for that money. And it got a lot of fingers pointing at each other. The mess is now in court.

In any case, Anchorage isn’t likely to get nearly that much money. Oil sunk to about $65 a barrel on Tuesday, which means that the state is facing huge budget deficits. Former Gov. Sean Parnell’s budget, which is sort of being used as a blueprint by the new administration, has budgeted about $219 million in capital projects.

Among other Sullivan priorities:

  • $14 million to complete the 100th Ave extension between C St. and Minnesota Dr.
  • Almost $10 million for the Chester Creek Complex improvements. Here’s a description:

Proposed improvements include relocation and reconstruction of Mulcahy Stadium with enhancements for both summer and winter multi-sport and multipurpose event use; expansion and reorientation of parking to facilitate traffic movement, pedestrian accessibilityj and safety, and additional exits to 16th Avenue and Gambell Street; a north-south pedestrian corridor along Cordova Street to facilitate pedestrian access and viewing for seasonal events, and a plaza/open area for outdoor vendors and events.

  • $2 million for the new Midtown transit facility.
  • $4.8 million for a Southcentral Law Enforcement Tactical Range/Construction. From the description:

The Southcentral Law Enforcement Tactical Range, a Campus of the Arctic Public Safety Training Institute (PSTI), will be a dedicated outdoor shooting facility with four individual ranges of different sizes to accommodate various types of firearms including long guns (rifles) and the simultaneous training of multiple agencies. The facility will enable area law enforcement personnel to maintain firearms proficiency in a safe setting, and to engage in realistic tactical training in a more appropriate venue than current public ranges.

Here’s some of the appropriations from departments across the city that caught my eye. (Read all of the funding requests here and let me know if anything interests you.)

  • $2.2 million for Sitka Street Park. Here’s a description:

Funds will be used to build a skatepark and design and build a paved multi-use trail connecting to the Chester Creek Greenbelt.

  • $1.95 million for the Anchorage Golf Course.
  • $1.8 million for Performing Arts Center upgrades.
  • $1.5 million to replace Glacier City Hall & Little Bears facilities in Girdwood
  • $2,8 million  for a Girdwood multi-purpose community building .
  • $2.92 million for historical properties renovations.
  • $550,000 for the Dena’ina Center. Description:

The Dena’ina Center was opened in Fall 2008 to allow for larger events to be introduced to Anchorage and Alaska. The success of the building far exceeded the anticipated usage from the beginning and components are beginning to show wear. To maintain the facility as State of the Art, items will need to be replaced when the lifecycle of the components are reached to attract national audiences to Anchorage and Alaska.

  • $600,000. East High tennis court cover.
  • $5 million for the Anchorage Museum. Description:

The Museum’s collections storage area is more than 40 years old in some areas and is outdated and insufficient in space and security. The HVAC system aged and in need of replacement to provide improved temperature and humidity control for the sensitive collections. The atrium and auditorium see high public use and are in need of a renovation.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


27 thoughts on “Anchorage requests $670 million in state budget, including $350 million for port

  1. AH HA

    Mayor Dan, You are quite right that spending on critical infrastructure is what government is charged with doing. But, they are also charged with balancing a budget and acting in a fiscally responsible manner. Make us a good argument that you can do both these things and still get your port renewal and we will be glad to support you…

    My recommendation is that you spend some time rehabilitating that Port Project’s image first… It’s reputation for waste and abuse is a thing to behold…..

  2. Lynn Willis

    Mayor Dan,
    Your party cannot have it both ways. Please juxtapose your apparent offense (and my actual offense) at the spending during the recession by your predecessor with what the current Speaker of the House of Representatives had to say which appeared in the Peninsula Clarion when the Speaker was rationalizing the unsustainable spending of the last few years by a State Government completely controlled by the Republicans and with a Republican Governor empowered with the line item veto:

    Speaker Chenault: “But, yeah, I mean we’ve have spent some exorbitant amounts of money on capital projects throughout the state that have kept Alaska out of the doldrums as far as what the rest of the U.S. has seen in the last recession. I think that helped, but the problem is that the state doesn’t have the money to do that and how do you justify spending that money. At the rate we’re going, in four or five years, that’s what the bean counters say, we’ll be out of money if we keep spending at the rate we are.”

    At least the Speaker now apparently understands the jeopardy we are in. Perhaps Mayor Begich was also simply engaging in “doldrums mitigation” during a recession? So Mr. Mayor with these latest requests for capital spending are you telling us that this recent state spending beyond our means isn’t really a problem unless done by a member of the opposite party? Also, please tell me how all these requests represent “critical Infrastructure” starting with those covered tennis courts and that money for the golf course ?

  3. Mayor Dan

    Investing in critical infrastructure is what government is supposed to do – the Port of Anchorage is the state’s lifeline and has to be completed. Begich’s overspending is well documented – he increased spending by 50% in just six years as mayor and his 2008 giveaway contracts dramatically increased the cost of government in the midst of the worst recession in 70 years, when revenues were known to be declining. One of the worst business decisions in Anchorage history. Just the facts

  4. Pained Republican

    Asking the state for $389 million in capital spending alone when the state is spending $12 million per day more than it is taking in is anything but conservative. Did Mayor Sullivan also join the Unity Party?

    I look for this Unity administration in Juneau to go through a dance in which they look at crazy ideas like leveraging the Permanent Fund as if money is magic and Wall St. doesn’t know anything. When reality sets in they will try to show budget cuts that are not really cuts at all. After that stage they will discover that the cash is still going out the door at the same rate. Only then will they look at how close they can come to meeting campaign promises and balancing the budget.

    In the meantime the 29th Legislature will have enacted a budget and gone home. That budget will spend $3 billion of the reserves but razzle dazzle will make it look like a cut from FY2015. And no one will believe them but Governor Walker will sign it into law and claim victory.

  5. Brent Crude

    This is the guy who went on forever with his bogus claims about Begich’s overspending? Welcome to the taxpayer trough Mayor Dan.

  6. Garand Fellow

    So the state fall revenue forecast is out, and state petroleum (unrestricted) revenue is forecast to go from $4.8 billion in the year that ended last June 30, to $1.6 billion next fiscal year. That is a change of about 9 million dollars a day from FY2014 to FY2016 (the year the legislature will budget for beginning next month). And even that is based upon a forecast increase in oil prices from where prices are today. Inflationary pressures in the school BSA, Medicaid and other large programs make the problem worse than the numbers show of course.

    I think that all elected leaders, especially mayors need to be helping to find solutions instead of merely requesting money through their delegations to the legislature and their lobbyists. An elected official asking for $1 should have suggestions at the ready amount to $3 in budget cuts. Absent help in finding reductions any elected official asking for money is part of the problem instead of part of the solution. And Republicans need to pull the argument toward less spending and protecting reserves. Possibly Anchorage port improvements must wait until they are needed for the gasline and can be paid as part of gasline construction costs.

  7. Anonymous

    So should the state balance revenues and expenditures or should capital projects be done with deficit spending? If the budget is going to be balanced then what should be eliminated in the operating budget to pay for these capital projects? If the state is going to continue deficit spending (at about $11 million per day right now) should it set aside cash to pay off existing debt and the past-due retirement liabilities? If debt was to be seriously considered is there a case to be made that even though the generation in power now has lived off oil for 40 years there should be debt along with the deficit to hand to Gov. Walker’s and Lt. Gov. Mallott’s children and grandchildren (as the oil economy disappears)? Is there a fiscal conservative in Anchorage? Should the state cut loose the muni’s on their PERS/TRS unfunded liabilities, revenue sharing, reimbursement of muni school debt, etc. in order to (hopefully) balance the budget and then see if there is anything left over for these capital projects? Should coastal communities served by the Marine Highway kick in money to help subsidize the ferry service, and Anchorage, Fairbanks and Seward kick in money to subsidize the RR? Was Governor Walker’s campaign promise to end deficit spending of $7 million per day (which is was back then) meaningless, or is he off the hook now that deficit spending is even higher? In an era of $60 to $65 oil is a state grant request complete if it isn’t accompanied by answers to some of these questions?

  8. AH HA

    @Claire, you are right of course. Now, if we are prepared to wait a little while we can all find out if I’m right… So far though, I think I’m well on the way to hitting it on the nose.

    Valerie started running that promise back the day after inauguration… and it’s bet she’s not doing that on accident.

    Mark is already making “Mayor” noises…

    Sheffield has vanished into thin air..

    Whatever Hollis is plotting is yet to be discovered but if history is instructive we can be assured he’s plotting…..

  9. Andy Mattoon Scott

    OMG….did you not read ” the worlds best managers” are now on board? That’s like McCain saying Palin is the worlds expert on energy. Turning on a hair dryer for a weird hairdo does not qualify.

    Politicians, albeit a new round of them, will be in charge of the Port. Get ready for round four of stupid, expensive mistakes. Unbelievable……..

  10. Mayor Dan

    Amanda – you refer to the requests in our 2015 State Legislative Program as “Sullivan’s priorities.” The legislative program is a direct reflection of the municipal capital budget that has public hearings and is reviewed, amended and approved by the Assembly. These are Municipality of Anchorage priorities. The origin of many of the projects comes from our community councils who submit a list to the city every spring. Our various departments review the requests, particularly for roads and parks and conduct site inspections to help prioritize the projects and then submit them for consideration into the capital budget.

    With over 40% of Alaska’s population, our list of requests is going to be much larger than any other community, but we know that many of the projects will not get funded in a given year. Given the current revenue situation, we also know that this will be a very lean year for state capital expenditures. Projects that are key to economic viability and have already been started will likely take top priority.

    The Port of Anchorage is one of those projects. The Port is the economic lifeline for 85% of Alaska’s communities and my administration has taken the disaster we inherited and we now have a viable plan, the world’s best project managers, and direct oversight by the Municipality. Funding through a combination of state bonds and state and federal grants over the next several years will be needed to complete the project. This is likely the most important infrastructure project in the state, although I concur that if a natural gas pipeline proves economically viable, we need to work expeditiously to advance that project as well.

  11. Madge

    Just what the Port needs, another politician to run the Port of Anchorage.
    Keep it how it is, they’ve finally cleaned up the mess!

  12. Garand Fellow

    We all need to realize that Saudi Arabia shot Santa Claus. Munis and the education lobby may be the very last to accept it.

  13. ONineFrank

    Is there such a thing as fact checking your blog comments Amanda?

    Governor Sheffield was fired for screwing up the project. Non-starter Rich Wilson worked as director for two years and not former deputy is the new director. He’s been there since Sheffield days and I served with him in the Air Force, where he worked for 30 years.

    At least get your facts right before fabricating a weird conversation.

  14. Catharsis

    This list is a joke. Is the Muni of Anc delusional? From my vantage point, the only thing on the list worthy of funding in this economic climate is the 100th Street extension. This makes sense from an economic development perspective as this type of infrastructure will be followed by significant private sector dollars. Hope the Juneauites are smart enough to figure this out.
    Thanks for the chase on this article Amanda.

  15. Lynn Willis

    As a state we need to maintain what assets we have and we will struggle to do that. Every Capital Budget expenditure immediately turns into an operating budget obligation to maintain including these “expansions” and most “renovations”. Now is the time for the legislature and Governor to demand that each capital budget expenditure be justified with an explanation of how it will be sustained over time using either local general fund revenues, user fees, or additional funds from the state operating budget.
    Speaking of available general fund revenues; if the Ketchikan lawsuit (disallowing the state from mandating collection of local revenues for a specific purpose) prevails and approximately 50% of my property taxes are no longer to be dedicated to pay for local schools, what impact would that have on the ability of local taxpayers to now fund Municipal obligations?
    As we approach this next decade (or longer) of fiscal restraint , I appreciate that local governments will realize less state largess and understand I will never see property tax relief. That said, I would appreciate the Mayor demonstrating just how many of these requests could now be funded locally if this revenue previously dedicated to fund schools becomes available for other municipal spending.

  16. DB

    Apparently, the Muni doesn’t know how to distinguish needs vs wants. This demonstrates that man is a creature of habit. Local govt has become accustomed to the State fulfilling its wants and it is difficult for local govt to change its behavior. But we must also say “the rural communities have survived on this mode of operation for years”. It will be very difficult for them to change. Behavior modification is the answer to most of these Muni wants

  17. AH HA

    Overheard at Walk-Back Walkers Morning Staffer;

    Hmmm…. Sheffield is now persona non grata (again), Mark and Hollis are both looking for work….and they both think I owe ’em something. We’ve got to get rid of that republican mayor in Anchorage somehow and that Damn port thingy up there still needs sorted out… Jim? Why don’t you fly up to anchorage and meet with these two guys. Toss a coin if you need to but have one take the port director job and have the other make a run for mayor.

    Oh, and Jim? While your up there go see Bill and tell him it’s time to retire. Out of State somewhere is best. We gotta get control of him before he gets all of us in jail…..

    Ok Folks, Is that it?

    Valerie? Stick around we need to talk…

    You’re making me look bad…. Are you sure the problems over there aren’t, like, a lot bigger than that? We’ve got to come up with something really good to get me off the hook on this Medi-cal thingy. What do you mean it’s Medicare? I thought….. Wait…..Wait… That’s it…. Have the PR guy say I misspoke during the campaign, I meant to expand Medi-Cal not Medicare. Everyone knows we can’t expand Medicare..

    God, I like this job.

  18. Garand Fellow

    To make this request the muni needs to identify within the request exactly which state division(s) they choose to have go away in order to obtain the funding. It needs to be a division that dispenses money directly or with its services rather than one of the divisions that takes in money (the Tax Division or the Oil & Gas Division). It needs to be a division that has most of its employees in Anchorage to avoid parochialism fights. If they reach agreement with the legislature and the governor about closing that part of state government then I am hopeful they might obtain a portion of this amount.

  19. Tennis Elbow

    Mayor Dan – Are there any Muni recreation or entertainment facilites that pay for themselves? Your budget requests demonstrate that an increase in user fees/ticket prices may be warrented for Mulcahy, Anchorage Golf Course, Performing Arts Center, Anchorage Museum, and the Dena’ina Center. The state shouldn’t be subsidizing the leisure time activities of Anchorage residents.

  20. Mr. Money Bags

    Anchorage residents vote against paying for projects in their own city with taxpayers dollars, such as repairs to the library entranceway and the Chester Creek Complex project, and then ask the State to pay for it instead. What a joke.

  21. Stiller

    The MOA obviously hasn’t realized that the price of oil is closing below $65 per barrel. In other words, these requests are mostly pipe dreams.
    Question: if the convention center’s usage is significantly greater than anticipated, so should the revenues be greater than anticiapted. So, why then are they asking for $500K for improvements instead of using the unanticipated revenues?

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