The Legislature in Alaska passed a $302 million bond package, the largest issuance the state has approved in 17 years.
"This is a big step for us," said Dale Anderson, legislative assistant to Rep. Eldon Mulder, R-Anchorage, who introduced the package to the House.
Mulder's original plan would have raised $665 million to build and repair schools, rehabilitate buildings at the University of Alaska, complete the university's library in Anchorage, bring state buildings into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and upgrade state harbors.
The plan was revised to its present size through different committees.
The Legislature anticipates selling the bonds in the next two months, Anderson said.
The state is backing some of the bonds with tobacco settlement funds. The newly formed Northern Tobacco Securitization Corp. will issue $93 million in tobacco-backed bonds. It has selected Bear, Stearns & Co. as lead underwriter. The state plans to direct all $20 million to $22 million it expects to receive annually from the settlement to education.
"The Legislature is very pleased with the scope of this plan," Anderson said. "They feel it's very balanced and addresses needs across Alaska, touching 83% of students."
Most funds will be directed at school construction and maintenance, including six rural schools that top the state Department of Education's priority list.
Other funds will be used to reimburse 70% of locally initiated projects that must be approved by voters in the area.