AP FACT CHECK: Dunleavy eyed cutting unbudgeted rail study
By BECKY BOHRER
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) – The Republican nominee for governor in Alaska says he would eliminate a $4.5 million fast-rail study from the state budget. But there’s no such line item in the budget.
Mike Dunleavy, a former state senator, has campaigned on reducing state spending and limiting the growth of government. He said the state must prioritize what it spends money on, and he wants to revisit an appropriation limit in the state Constitution that critics see as too lax.
His opponents have accused him of providing few details on how he would cut the budget if elected.
Democrat Mark Begich has accused him of using “magic Mike numbers” to balance the budget. Gov. Bill Walker, before ending his campaign, suggested Dunleavy had skipped some candidate forums to avoid being pressed for details.
During a recent debate, Dunleavy was asked what specifically he would cut from the budget.
A look at the claim:
DUNLEAVY: “Four-point-five million dollar fast-rail study from Matsu to Anchorage, I would eliminate that.”
Dunleavy missed the mark. While Gov. Bill Walker requested that $4.5 million unspent from other projects be used to explore the commuter rail idea, the Legislature did not approve the money, said Pat Pitney, Walker’s budget director. The money is not in the current budget.
Daniel McDonald, a spokesman for Dunleavy, said by email that the commuter rail study “is one example of a budget item that he, as governor, wouldn’t have proposed in the first place, as his predecessor did.”
Walker in January created a task force charged with proposing recommendations on the feasibility and implementation of a pilot project for a commuter rail service between the fast-growing Matanuska-Susitna valley and Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city. Currently, one highway connects the areas, and traffic can get backed up in poor weather or when there is an accident or road work.
Task force co-chair Bert Cottle, Wasilla’s mayor, said the group wants to see if it can find money and explore different options without having to go through the Legislature. He said he currently didn’t see the Legislature supporting transit trains.
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