Senators resurrect vetoed capital projects

Posted: Wednesday, March 05, 2008

FAIRBANKS - Gov. Sarah Palin vetoed more than 175 capital projects last year but may have them to consider again.

The Senate Finance Committee on Monday inserted the vetoed projects into the supplemental budget bill, which usually is limited to spending money for unexpected expenses in the current budget.

The building projects total $51.5 million and range from plow trucks and ball field improvements to a $10 million expansion of the Port of Anchorage. In Fairbanks, they include major grants for the Tanana Valley Sportsmen's Association and the J.P. Jones Community Development Center.

The Senate Finance Committee passed the modified version of the bill, SB 256, out of committee after a brief review

Sen. Fred Dyson, R-Eagle River, the only minority member on the committee, said inclusion of capital items was "absolutely inappropriate." He also criticized a lack of public discussion of the bill.

Sen. Gary Wilken, R-Fairbanks, said he had never seen vetoed capital projects from one year inserted into the supplemental budget the next year.

"Mechanically, it's OK," he said. "Politically, I'm not sure it's the right thing to do."

Finance Committee Co-chairman Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, defended the process. The capital projects already went through the vetting process last year, he said, and putting them in a budget for the current fiscal year made more sense than putting them in a budget for next year.

"We're trying to line up '08 revenues with '08 expenses," he said.

Sen. Joe Thomas, D-Fairbanks, said some projects met criteria the governor had laid out for capital projects.

Palin spokeswoman Sharon Leighow wrote in an e-mail Monday that it was too soon to say whether the governor would veto the items again.

"There is a lot of work left to do on the supplemental bill and the public will also weigh in on the projects that were added," she said. "But again, overall spending last year was too high."

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