Assembly's veto override fails

Posted: Friday, April 08, 2005

An attempt to override a mayoral veto of an ordinance requiring summarized estimates of the anticipated economic effects of future proposed ordinances, commonly called fiscal notes, failed at Tuesday's Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting when veto opponents could muster only five of the six votes needed.

While a majority supported the override effort, two-thirds of the nine-member body must support an override or a veto stands.

Mayor Dale Bagley vetoed Ordinance 2004-35 in mid-March arguing against saddling the finance and legal departments with the added work of compiling fiscal notes when each department was losing staff.

Introduced by Betty Glick of Kenai, the measure won the support of six members and was adopted March 1.

The law required that fiscal notes accompany all ordinances that would be expected to have an economic impact on the borough's costs and revenues in excess of $30,000, or that would impact the private sector. Glick said then that while it might not always be possible to accurately identify all costs, an estimate was preferable to no information at all. She based the ordinance language on Anchorage's municipal code.

"The required additional work in compiling accurate and detailed fiscal notes, when a lot of information is subjective and-or speculative in nature, will add to the departments' workload," Bagley said in his veto message to the assembly.

Bagley also expressed concern about the heat the administration might have to take from assembly members or private citizens who might disagree with the fiscal note information, and he warned that the fiscal note process could become a political tool.

"It is possible that future administrations could give high fiscal notes on ordinances that they don't support and low fiscal notes on ordinances that they do support," he said. "Even if administrations don't do that, they will still be accused of doing it. At the state level, departments are accused of this on a regular basis."

Just before the override vote, Glick acknowledged it was possible that an administration might "play games" with the process, but that having even simple cost estimates could help the assembly make better decisions.

Paul Fischer of Kasilof agreed, saying most fiscal notes shouldn't take more than one sheet of paper.

Assembly member Ron Long of Seward, who opposed the fiscal note measure when first adopted, said his concerns remained the same, especially regarding provisions that required estimating the effects of borough ordinances on private business.

"It's not just the administration that is charged with doing fiscal notes, it's the assembly," he said. "We don't have staff, we don't have the wherewithal, we don't have the inside knowledge, and I don't think either the administration or the assembly is qualified to address all of the impacts on private businesses, everything from Agrium to Fred's Chevron."

Long said such efforts likely would be mere speculation and guesswork.

Martin, who originally supported the measure March 1, said the mayor had raised some valid points, and she did not want to add to the weight of work on a shrinking staff.

Martin and Long voted against the motion to override, joined by Grace Merkes of Sterling, who also originally supported the fiscal note measure, and assembly President Gary Superman of Nikiski.

Supporting the override were Glick, Dan Chay of Kenai, Chris Moss of Homer, Pete Sprague of Soldotna and Fischer, who was absent for the March 1 vote.

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