Gov. Sarah Palin dropped the hammer today on $80 million from the state budget. Her cuts include the $28.6 million in federal stimulus money designated for energy relief. Even though Juneau, Fairbanks and Anchorage municipalities are already complying with the federal building codes, Palin turned money down for weatherization and energy assistance to avoid the building requirements statewide. The governor of Missouri, Jay Nixon, negotiated taking the money without a statewide code.
Alaska has the highest energy costs in the nation. Alaska has two seasons; winter and construction. Now would be the best time for window replacement, weatherization, etc.
In a “bring it on” move, Palin dared the legislature to over-ride her veto. I just spoke to a state legislature about the chances of a special session being called. It is possible, if not, the next session is January 2010.
Last fall, Governor Palin allocated $740 million in one time “energy bail-out” checks to every citizen in Alaska.
This year, $28.6 million is turned down.
Democratic Alaska Senator Mark Begich responded quickly, pointing out the hypocrisy of the Governor’s position, asking for earmarks and rejecting the stimulus.
“With Alaskans facing the highest energy prices in the nation, it’s disappointing that our governor is turning thumbs down on federal funding that could help our families and communities reduce their energy bills.
“The Republican-led Alaska Legislature determined that our state already meets the standards necessary to accept this funding. This notion about some onerous federal mandate seems to be little more than a political red herring targeted at an agenda other than Alaska’s.
“Of the more than nearly $5 billion in requests from Alaska communities and non-profits for federal funding my office has received so far this year, I’d estimate a third of them relate to reducing energy costs. My agenda will continue to be securing federal assistance to help Alaska families reduce their high cost of living.”
UPDATE FROM LES GARA:
“A few folks have been asking about whether the Governor’s Energy Fund Veto can be overridden. Here’s a quick tentative answer – I think it’s correct. It requires more research – but for folks who disagree with the Governor’s decision, calling for a veto override doesn’t, at this point, seem like an effective tool.
1. The Appropriations bill appropriated funds subject, I believe, to receipt from the Federal Government. We haven’t received those funds because the Governor hasn’t applied for them. So, she’s vetoed funds we don’t have. Overriding the veto won’t bring those funds to the state. The operative action needed from the Governor would be an application for the funds, which she has refused to submit. I think she is the only Governor in the nation to refuse to request these funds to date. Anyway, the Legislature can’t force her to do that, unless Congress amends the rules.
2. Bill Wielechowski’s Office did the most interesting research so far – last week. It seems that until the Governor formally notifies the President she will reject the federal funds, they can be applied for at a future point. The door’s not necessarily closed at this point. So, assuming this is correct, those who believe we should accept these funds should work to either keep the Governor from the fatal decision – an outright rejection letter to the President – or encourage her to be thoughtful in reconsidering her decision so she’ll make the application.
I personally think the following makes sense – and should have been done in the first place. The Governor’s agencies – presumably with her input since she’s head of the state’ agencies (AHFC and AEA) – proposed to spend the funds on a number of efforts. All $29 million could have instead been spent on building renewable energy projects around the state, to achieve this state’s renewable and diversified energy goals. It’s odd to have renewable energy goals, like the Governor announced in her Winter press conference, and to reject funds needed to build those projects. I would encourage folks to run this proposal by the Governor – one she of course could have proposed in the first place – and see if we can encourage her to accept the funds for these purposes, if she didn’t like the purposes her agencies proposed in the operating budget.”