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Veto may delay Coastal Management startup

Posted: May 17, 2012 - 8:43pm

A veto by Gov. Sean Parnell of funding for a new Coastal Management program, should voters opt to create one in August, will delay implementation by almost a year, supporters say.

“You need to have money there to get that program up and running,” said Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, a supporter of Coastal Management.

“To cut that seems spiteful to me,” she said.

“I’m disappointed,” said Mayor Bruce Botelho, chairman of the Alaska Sea Party, the main group backing the ballot initiative.

Alaska’s decades-old Coastal Management program ended last year when the Legislature failed to renew it. A ballot measure sponsored by the Alaska Sea Party and scheduled for the August election aims to bring the program back, creating by initiative what the Legislature did not do.

The Coastal Management program gives Alaskans a say in what federal officials do in areas along the state’s coast and in its waters, but has been opposed by some development interests who fear it may be used to block locally unpopular federal actions.

Parnell and others have said they fear development opponents holding the state hostage when projects of statewide importance are under consideration.

Parnell’s Coastal Management funding veto was not part of the $66 million in vetoes announced in Anchorage on Monday, but covered an additional $2.9 million to restart the program, along with contingency language that would have authorized the spending in the event of passage.

“The long and short of it is, the effect of this action is to delay substantially the reinstatement of the program,” Botelho said.

The Legislature last year returned to Juneau for a special session in June in a last-ditch attempt to keep Coastal Management alive, but found the Parnell administration had already dismantled the program that was slated to soon end.

That involved giving up its leased office space, dismissing employees, transferring equipment to state property officials and purging files, with some files being discarded and some going into state archives.

Kerttula said contingent funding was put into the budget to be able to implement the initiative.

“We needed to have that money in the budget when Coastal Management passes,” said a confident-sounding Kerttula.

If the initiative passes, the state would be required to have a Coastal Management program for two years before it could eliminate it. Parnell said he’d budget money for it next year, if needed.

“If it passes, we will request funding for the initiative,” he said.

Kerttula said that would likely delay starting the program for months, until the start of the next fiscal year in July.

Botelho said funding in a supplemental budget might speed that up, but not by much.

Parnell defended the veto, saying it followed historical precedent.

“In our state’s history, to our knowledge, we have never pre-funded an initiative,” he said.

Kerttula said the delay would mean the state’s developers would not have the program’s assistance in dealing with the federal permitting process.

“That’s unfortunate for developers around the state who want to start moving on their permits and have some coordination around it,” she said.

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