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Palin vetoes survive ire from Legislature

Posted: Sunday, June 08, 2008

Strong support among legislators for overriding Gov. Sarah Palin's vetoes was not enough to produce an actual override.

The Saturday midnight deadline for the legislators to reverse Palin's $268 million in vetoes, including $13 million in Juneau projects in the capital budget, passed without legislative leaders scheduling an override vote.

Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, said he would consider a veto override, as would most other legislators.

Enough legislators were angry about the vetoes to probably reach the 75 percent needed to override, but not in the right combination, he and others said.

Some supported overriding on selected projects, or types of projects, while others wanted to override all or nothing, he said.

Locally, Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, said she was willing to override the governor on some important local projects, including road, bridge and ferry projects.

Kerttula said there were other projects elsewhere she called "pretty egregious" on which she was not willing to override.

Rep. Andrea Doll, D-Juneau, said she was going to let some projects through in order to get support for local priorities, such as reversing Palin's $30 million cuts in ferry system money.

The 75 percent override threshold is a difficult hurdle to overcome, said Sen. Gene Therriault, R-North Pole, leader of the five-member Senate Republican Majority, which backed the governor on the vetoes.

That meant that if the Senate Working Group, the bi-partisan coalition led by Sen. Lyda Green, R-Wasilla, would need all of its votes to take on the governor. At the same time, not all majority members were available. Sens. John Cowdery and Lesil McGuire, both R-Anchorage, were not present and absences count as negative votes.

Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, a member of the Working Group and co-chairman of he Senate Finance Committee, said his caucus supported Palin's stated budget cutting goal, but not how she went about it with the capital project vetoes.

"We just have a disagreement about what it means to rein in the growth of government," said Sen. Bert Stedman, co-chairman of the budget-writing Senate Finance Committee.

Stedman said he wanted to limit the growth of the operating budget, but spend money on capital projects when oil prices are high.

"Capital budgets are easier to cut back in future years if money is tight," he said.

"We just don't spend it," he said.

Cutting operating budgets, on the other hand, may mean laying off public employees and ending services on which Alaskans have come to rely.

• Contact Reporter Pat Forgey at 589-4816 or e-mail patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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