Stevens Reflects on New Role in Senate


Brianna Gibbs/KMXT
Tonight members of Kodiak’s city council and borough assembly will host a reception in the state capital with the hopes of shedding a bit more light on local projects. Many have already met with various legislators this week and will use a seafood reception as an opportunity to further advocate for the community of Kodiak.
The city, borough and villages all sent a CIP list to the state this year and will essentially compete with other communities around the state for funding from the capitol budget. The size of that budget hasn’t been determined yet, but Kodiak Senator Gary Stevens said it will most likely be smaller than in recent years past, meaning less projects funded.
Unlike the operating budget, the capitol budget starts in the Senate and moves on to the House. Stevens said there doesn’t seem to be a theme as far as funding goes this year, but there are definitely some noteworthy projects around the state.

— (Sen. Stevens 1 :48 “We were able to put a lot of money into Kodiak last year, and into some of the villages, and there’s such needs out there, and our district now is so big because of redistricting and reapportionment. We have a lot more communities, Kodiak House District is Kodiak, Yakutat, Cordova, but the other House District though is Dillingham, King Salmon, Naknek and almost going right almost to the north step of Bethel. And there are some communities that just have enormous needs, and very basic needs like safe water and energy needs and all of that. And we have one community that because of water erosion is moving, and that’s at the cost of $2 million per household if you can imagine that. So it’s very, very expensive. So we can’t do them all, obviously, so we’re just trying to share as much as we can throughout the district.”)

Stevens said every legislator will be looking for a piece of the pie to bring back to his or her district, and because Kodiak’s district now includes so many more communities, it may be more difficult to acquire funding for local projects.
Redistricting didn’t just shake up things as far as capitol funding goes. Stevens said the process resulted in fewer rural legislators and more urban representation. He said this shift of power from coastal, rural towns to areas like Anchorage and Fairbanks is unfortunate, but he’s optimistic of the fact that he is still a part of the majority — even if it is a different majority than in recent years.
— (Sen. Stevens 2 :24 “I think the biggest change is that the Legislature, at least the Senate, has taken a turn to the right. So it’s moved much more conservative. That causes me some concerns. I’m a Republican, but I consider myself a moderate Republican, not a far right republican, so the majority caucus is a little more to the right of me than I’ve been comfortable with in the past.”)

Stevens said majority changes aren’t unusual, and it’s all part of the ebb and flow at the Legislature. He said he’s still optimistic about the next month of session and what can be done.
— (Sen. Stevens 3 :35 “I’m optimistic that we will accomplish the educational goals that we set out. And that we will fund education, not exactly where I think it should be funded, but close to that. I’ve always said to caucus, you need to be generous, and in the end, we always fund education, so to drag your feet and say no, no, no, when in the end you say yes, it’s sort of silly to do that. So hopefully we can move ahead, and I’m proposing an entire budget for education, a bill that will fund all of education and hopefully it will be more generous than not .”)

Another bill Stevens is sponsoring will rename the airport in Akhiok after two pilots who were killed in plane crashes in recent years. Stevens said the proposed name, “The Jim Andie and Robin Starrett Memorial Runway,” will likely speed through the legislative process because there is no cost to changing the name and the community supports it. He said the recent suggestion to change the Kodiak airport to the “Benny Benson Kodiak State Airport” will most likely be included in that bill, and likewise speed through the process before session ends on April 14. ###

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