Juneau delegation works to stave off veto of projects

Posted: Friday, March 28, 2008

Members of Juneau's legislative delegation met with Gov. Sarah Palin this week, hoping to win approval of several projects important to Juneau.

"I think it went very well," said Rep. Andrea Doll, D-Juneau.

The top project on Juneau's wish list is a power extension to the weather monitoring station high on Douglas Island. The station provides information that helps the Juneau International Airport get planes in and out of town even in bad weather. Diesel generators power the station, but have not always been dependable, said Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau.

Juneau legislators are also lobbying for money for halfway houses for Gastineau Human Services, a state parks work boat and dental equipment for Lemon Creek Correctional Center.

Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, said she explained the project met the public safety criteria Palin said was important.

"She seemed real receptive," Kerttula said.

Some members of the leadership of the bipartisan Senate majority coalition have clashed with Palin over the vetoes, while those in the Senate Republican Minority backed the governor's attempt to cut back spending.

The Alaska Legislature declined to try to override last year's vetoes, but then included $70 million of the vetoed projects in the supplemental budget now under consideration. That budget is usually reserved for unanticipated costs, such as fighting forest fires or covering fuel cost increase2s.

Using the supplemental budget instead of the regular capital budget rankled some legislators.

Palin invited all legislators to meet with her and top members of her administration to explain their projects. Along with Palin at the Juneau meeting were Mike Tibbles, her chief of staff; Russ Kelly, legislative liaison; and Karen Rehfeld, director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Not all legislators took the governor up on the offer. Sen. Gary Wilken, R-Fairbanks, a member of the minority, said he backed the governor's vetoes and wasn't requesting projects through the unusual route of the supplemental budget.

"The current situation bastardizes the budget process," he said.

The supplemental budget passed overwhelmingly in the House and the Senate earlier, suggesting the votes are there for a veto override, if Palin chooses that option.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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