Low crude-oil prices have dealt a serious blow to Alaska’s state budget and threatened funding for everything from universities to the ferry system. Crude revenue funds about 90 percent of the state’s budget, but oil prices have dropped precipitously since last summer — leaving a $3 billion hole in the budget that lawmakers patched by dipping into reserves.
In December, Gov. Bill Walker was so worried about the budget that he ordered the overseers of six megaprojects to halt any new spending on those facilities. That freeze gave many Alaskans the impression that some projects could soon be on the chopping block, despite the state having already sunk millions of dollars into their completion. The state’s former transportation commissioner resigned in a huff over the order.
With a brand-new budget in place since mid-June, work on most of those threatened projects is once again beginning this month. However, Alaska’s budget problem is far from solved — so the future of these projects remains uncertain.
The Six Projects: 1) Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project; 2) A Road For The State Capital; 3) A Bridge To Somewhere; 4) A Natural-Gas Pipeline; 5) A Rocket Launchpad; 6) A Road To Gold.