Palin vows vetoes in public works projects

Governor criticizes state lawmakers for beefing up budget

Posted: Sunday, June 10, 2007

FAIRBANKS - Gov. Sarah Palin will trim Alaska's public works budget with line-item vetoes and seek an overhaul of the budgeting process, she said.

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The budget passed by state lawmakers in May grew enormously from her proposal, she said. Palin criticized lawmakers for beefing up the budget with projects that benefited their districts, then leaving her with the job of making cuts.

"There needs to be an adult in the house," she said.

She does not know how much she will cut from the capital budget, which includes about $530 million in state general funds, or whether she also will make cuts in the operating budget. Much of the spending went beyond what is needed for state mandates such as health care and public safety.

"There's so many little things in there that are adding up so tremendously," she said.

Asked whether her vetoes would disrupt dealmaking, Palin said she and her administration are not interested in playing political games or using public money to make friends with individual lawmakers.

"I can't do that," she said. "I don't have time to do it, I'm not politically savvy enough to be able to do it, and I don't want to do it."

Palin said Alaskans are fed up with the way legislators handle budgets. They refrain from challenging budget items for fear of upsetting their peers who push them, she said

The former mayor of Wasilla said she is accustomed to an open budget process at the municipal level and wants something similar at the state level.

"You have to do this in front of God and everyone," she said. "The budget process that we go through, I think, is ridiculous."

Debate in nonpublic sessions and last-minute budget changes ultimately harm the state, she said.

"I think Alaskans deserve a better process," she said.

Palin also chided lawmakers for their handling of public school funding.

Her administration offered to work on a plan for fixing the system but legislators did not accept and ended up with no agreement, she said.

When lawmakers failed to reach agreement on long-term fixes, they implemented a one-year fix and set up a task force to study the issue. The group will meet next week.

Palin appointed Carl Rose, executive director of the Association of Alaska School Boards, to the group.

"He'll be, I think, a good voice for the administration in looking at the whole big picture and not allowing politics to get into play," she said. "The challenge for this group is that you have immensely passionate legislators."

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