House Finance returns one-time trooper, prosecutor and road funding to AKLNG on word the project made it to Trump’s desk

Alaska State CapitolThe Alaska State Capitol as photographed in March 2017. (Photo by gillfoto/Creative Commons)

After hearing the beleaguered Alaska LNG project made it onto an infrastructure projects list headed for President Donald Trump, the House Finance Committee decided to return $50 million project funding the Senate earmarked for popular, albeit one-time spending.

The Senate, in an amendment put forward by Sen. Mike Dunleavy to the capital budget, planned to use $50 million of AKLNG’s $110 million to hire more troopers and prosecutors, pay for additional road maintenance and set aside money for education. The funding, however, would have lasted just one year.

The House initially seemed on-board with the plan and prudently extended the funding from one year to three years in a version of the capital budget released Saturday. That wasn’t to last.

The Legislature finally got a chance to hear how pilfering the funding would impact the AKLNG project, something the Senate never got to hear with the timing of Dunleavy’s amendment.

Gene Therriault, with the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation, said the state got an audience with the White House last week.

“We talked about our project that could lead to delivering gas resources into the international market, which could help with the balance of trade, and make gas accessible to Alaska and U.S. citizens that live in Alaska to support the federal military installations,” he said.

He said the initial meetings went well, and Keith Meyer, the president of AGDC, got to attend a Thursday energy infrastructure summit with Vice President Mike Pence.

Apparently the AKLNG project was one of the projects to emerge from the summit and was to be presented to to Trump, though he may have been a little distracted.

Unsurprisingly, Therriault said taking about half of the project’s funding would hurt its future prospects. He said the recent developments were “extremely positive, surprisingly positive and my fear is the loss of the funding would put the brakes on all of that.”

It was clear that some of the members of the House Finance Committee were skeptical about the project’s play in D.C. But on Sunday, the money was returned in a series of amendments.

Other takeaways from the capital budget

For all the talk of potential shenanigans with the budget—something like inserting the entire operating budget in a last-ditch hope to force the Senate’s hand—there wasn’t much excitement out of the meetings.

The House Finance Committee removed the $288 million the Senate put in for oil and gas tax credit payments. Instead, it put in $40 million for the payments. The move was unsurprising given the simmering tax credit battle.

The committee also restored $1 million in funding for a settlement with Planned Parenthood. The Senate had excluded the money in its budget.

The capital budget is due on the House Floor later today.

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