Rep. Could Cash in from Bridge
A legislative audit recently revealed that Alaskans could be on the hook for up to $1.4 billion dollars as a result of insufficient projected toll revenue from the Knik Arm Bridge (aka KABATA, aka The Bridge from Hell).
Not only that, but a land ownership analysis found that at least one state Representative in Juneau could stand to cash in from road construction to the area. The family of Representative Lynn Gattis (R-Wasilla) just happens to own land adjacent to the Knik Arm Bridge approach in the Mat-Su Borough, and would see her land become much more valuable as a result of the development.
In a statement issued by the Democratic Party today, Party Chair Michael Welstrup weighed in.
“The KABATA boondoggle puts taxpayers on the hook for up to $1.4 billion and it could also enrich a legislator at taxpayer’s expense. This is just the latest example of Republican conflicts of interest in Juneau.
“It is a violation of Owner State principles to socialize the expense of projects while privatizing the profits. Either private companies take the risk and get the reward, or if the public takes risks then we should benefit when projects succeed,” said Wenstrup.
Gattis has already been the recipient of hundreds of thousands of dollars of state and local money in the past, related to her land holdings. While she was on the Mat-Su School Board, she received a whopping $65,225 from the Mat-Su Borough to construct a haul road across her property. Even though the haul road was never built, Gattis kept the public money. Nice work if you can get it. I believe some in her party might characterize that as a free government handout.”
And while she was pocketing the $65,225 from the Mat-Su Borough, Gattis was using a $630,000 loan from the state of Alaska. One of the conditions of that $630,000 loan was that it be used for undeveloped agricultural land, a condition which would have been violated by the haul road. So, good thing THAT didn’t happen.
It left her with plenty of pocket change to by all the women in the House some real classy half-lace, half-camouflage scarves to wear while they were nullifying the Constitution earlier in the year. They may annihilate the very document they swore an oath to uphold, but darn if they didn’t look stylish doing it.
Under the terms of the proposed HB 23, Alaskans would be responsible for footing the bill for the entire $1.4 billion in bridge and approach costs which is not covered by the tolls the bridge will take in. The legislative audit found that toll revenue would be insufficient to cover costs of the bridge – by a lot. However, any toll profits from the bridge would accrue to private contractors, not the Alaskans who actually paid for the bridge. I believe that’s what they call a lose-lose proposition for the public, and a win-win for the contractors.
Today, House Republicans (sans camo neckwear) proposed a transfer of the management of KABATA to the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, but that transfer of managerial responsibility does not address the fact that you and I are expected to pay the costs to make up for the projected shortfall in tolls.
(Knik Arm Bridge, and Gattis land)