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Palin riles lawmakers with vetoes of projects

Posted: Sunday, May 25, 2008

Gov. Sarah Palin on Friday responded to what she claimed to be overspending by the Alaska Legislature with vetoes of a slew of projects in Juneau and elsewhere.

The vetoes announced Friday came to about 10 percent of the Legislature's $2.7 billion capital budget.

Among the $13 million in Juneau vetoes were a $1.2 million Centennial Hall improvement project and a $2.4 million Gastineau Channel crossing study, along with numerous smaller projects, such as improvements for the Filipino Community Building and an Eagle Beach cabin and shelters.

A $4.6 million roundabout and sidewalks on Glacier Highway at Fritz Cove Road was mostly vetoed, but the governor indicated she'd consider it in future budgets and left $750,000 in the budget to continue planning.

The cuts left Southeast legislators disappointed and upset with how Palin interacted with them on the budget.

Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, said many of the items vetoed did not appear to follow the guidelines set out by the governor, which gave a preference for life, health, safety, transportation and infrastructure projects.

"There's quite a few life-health-safety issues vetoed," he said.

The vetoed amounts totaled $268 million and were part of her efforts to restrain spending, she said in a press release.

"This administration takes its fiscal responsibility seriously," Palin said. "Especially during this time of extraordinary revenue, we must be responsible stewards of Alaska's resources to prepare for the future."

Stedman said Palin's promise to improve communication with the Legislature was not followed through on, and legislators were left in the dark again about her intentions.

"Open and transparent, good communications, is all hogwash," he said.

Among the vetoes was $100,000 to KTOO-TV's Government Transparency Project that would have installed remote-controlled, wall-mounted cameras in legislative chambers and meeting rooms to provide video feeds for statewide media coverage of the Legislature.

Rep. Andrea Doll, D-Juneau, said she, too, was perplexed at Palin's strategy.

"Looking at the cuts, I don't see any rhyme or reason," she said, "I don't see where she was coming from."

Among the items Doll was particularly upset about losing were a heating system and parking area safety upgrades for the Juneau Alliance for Mental Health Inc., which amounted to $70,000.

"They're hurting," she said, "they're truly, truly hurting."

Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, and House Democratic leader, was more circumspect.

"I still feel that the process has a long way to go, and I do not understand some of these cuts."

The Palin vetoes also raised concerns about regional fairness, with similar projects being approved elsewhere, while they were cut in Juneau.

Palin did not publicly announce her vetoes, but in an interview on Anchorage's KTUU-TV she shot back at legislators who attacked them.

"For some lawmakers, even a $13.5 billion budget isn't big enough," she said.

The operating budget Palin signed Friday totaled $11.1 billion, and an accompanying budget added another $3.6 billion.

Also Friday, Palin signed House Bill 313, authorizing a vote during the November general election on $315 million in general obligation bonds for transportation projects.

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



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