State Reps. Kurka and Eastman sponsor bill to move the capital from Juneau to Willow

An aerial view of a snowy landscape
Deneki Bridge across Willow Creek surrounded by ice Dec. 22, 2019. (Stefan Hinman/Matanuska-Susitna Borough)

A bill to move the state capital to Willow was introduced on Wednesday.

House Bill 311 is sponsored by Reps. Christopher Kurka and David Eastman, both Republicans who represent the Wasilla area in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Willow is also in the Mat-Su, north of Anchorage.

In addition to a provision that crosses out Juneau and replaces it with Willow in state statute, the bill would also repeal existing requirements for moving the capital. Currently, voters must approve moving the capital as well as approve spending the funds necessary to do so. In addition, current state statute requires that any move of the capital be narrowed down to a short list of possible sites by a commission. That new site must then be approved by voters.

Instead of taking it to voters, the bill — if approved — would change the capital.

This is not the first time moving the capital from Juneau to Willow has been considered. In 1974, Alaska voters approved a measure to move the capital out of Southeast and onto the road system. In 1976, Alaskans voted for Willow as the new capital over Larson Lake and Mount Yenlo.

The bill describes Willow in 1976 as the “compromise location between Anchorage and Fairbanks, the two major population centers of the state.”

In 1982, though, a ballot initiative to pay for that move failed. The cost of moving the capital was estimated at more than $2.8 billion in 1982, more than $8 billion today.

House Bill 311 received four committee referrals, giving it an uphill journey to make it to the House floor for a final vote.

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Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly described the areas Reps. Christopher Kurka and David Eastman represent in the state Legislature.

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