Don't disguise spending with supplemental bills

Posted: Monday, March 10, 2008

Last year I worked to help have a project included in the state capital budget. I still appreciate the work done by legislators and staffers to accomplish that. The project was vetoed, and at first I was disappointed. However, I quickly realized that for the first time, Alaska has a governor who will actually examine and even reduce spending increases in a time of revenue surplus, and that is by far the greater need.

Having that high level of leadership on the third floor is much more important to Alaska than is any one or even any group of capital projects. Therefore, I worry that confronting Gov. Sarah Palin with a supplemental spending bill that includes many of those rejected projects - daring her to veto them yet again perhaps - is a terrible response to strong leadership.

I hope that the Juneau delegation argues to return to an honest and constructive process, and I expect the Juneau delegation to work with the administration to examine each project, its constituencies and whether using one-time dollars from oil depletion is the best funding source.

A final point is that using a supplemental budget bill in this way is bad government. The reason capital spending is broken out from operating spending is that capital projects extend for multiple fiscal years whereas a supplemental bill should be limited to filling holes in current year appropriations. Putting capital projects in a supplemental bill disguises the actual spending levels, and can even make spending look like savings. Budget shell games are poor process and hide the true fiscal picture from Alaskans.

Tom Boutin


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