Palin seeks more money for budget

Governor requests $20 million for ferry system; $31 million for oil, gas issues

Posted: Thursday, February 15, 2007

Gov. Sarah Palin on Wednesday submitted an $82 million supplemental budget for the current fiscal year, including an additional $20 million for the state ferry system.

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The largest part of the supplemental appropriation budget is a bill submitted by Palin requesting $31 million for oil and gas issues, including money needed to bring North Slope natural gas to market. That appropriation had been expected.

Another bill includes $51 million for several other agencies, including the Alaska Marine Highway System.

Half the ferry money goes to cover a budget deficit of $10.7 million with which the ferry system began the fiscal year.

In addition, the system also has another $532,000 in unpaid bills, ranging from Petro Marine in Seward to the Port of Bellingham, Wash., where the ferry docks.

Some of those expenses were simply bills for services provided in 2006, which were not submitted until after the end of the year, said Mike Chambers, spokesman for the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

Palin's request also includes $10.1 million for ferry operations. Some of those costs were anticipated; others were not, said Karen Rehfeld, director of the Office of Management and Budget.

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That amount included the $2.2 million cost for winter service by the Fairweather that had not been expected, but there were also costs of $3.9 million for operating cost overruns and unexpected employee overtime.

Part of the $10.1 million had been expected, however. The system had been projected to run a deficit of $3.6 million during the year.

During the year the ferry system also was hit with unexpected costs for vessel repairs, including corroded steel decking and lifeboat and other repairs for the LeConte, Matanuska, Columbia, Kennicott, Taku and Fairweather, a total of $1.9 million.

The supplemental also includes $13 million for the Hooper Bay fire and other disasters during the year. The Transportation Department's Southeast Division had costs of $300,000 for snow removal on roads and airports.

The Corrections Department also ran up significant deficits and is seeking $13 million. The state had budgeted enough to send 900 prisoners to a private prison in Arizona, but it currently has 1,060 there and expects to place a total of 1,250, it said.

• Pat Forgey can be reached at

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