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Budget cuts reflect Palin's intent to save

Posted: Sunday, July 08, 2007

It's disappointing that several Kenai Peninsula projects were cut from the state capital budget by Gov. Sarah Palin. It's particularly frustrating that 60 percent — $19.8 million — of the $33.6 million allocated by the Legislature for the peninsula was vetoed by the governor.

At the same time, it's encouraging that Palin is exercising her leadership to distinguish what she sees as community wants versus community needs. Even though everyone may not agree with her decisions, what she did is consistent with what she said she would do.

Her comment during a news conference about the capital budget bears repeating: "We need to live within our means. Even though we have a surplus, that doesn't warrant a spending spree on an unlimited credit card. Now is the time to save for the future."

Most would agree with Palin's statement; the disagreement comes in the projects she cut — 300 projects that individual communities determined to be worthwhile.

The list of reasons vary, such as other funding options available; not a state responsibility; lower priority category of funding; and to be considered in a future budget. Still 31 agencies and facilities have come away empty handed on the peninsula.

While seeking water system development in Ninilchik, modifications to the Nikiski Recreation Center to replace aging sand filters and a surge tank at the Nikiski pool or a facility to house pets when disasters — like the Caribou Hills fire — strike may be small potatoes to Palin and her administration, it's even harder to understand cutting the largest project: the $12.5 million from the Railbelt Energy Fund that was to have been used by Homer Electric Association to augment and upgrade transmission facilities on the northern Kenai Peninsula, where the utility company provides power to several industrial plants.

Ouch.

Palin vetoed a total of $75 million in Railbelt Energy Fund appropriations, affecting Matanuska Electric Association, Copper Valley Electric Association, Chugach Electric Association and Anchorage Municipal Light and Power. Also vetoed was $12.5 million for the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority to restart the Healy coal plant.

We're told funding for the HEA project will be considered in a future budget. We just hope there's money available when we need it.

Don't get us wrong, we don't envy Palin's position. All cuts affect someone, and every mark of her pen kicks up a controversial storm.

On the other hand, Palin's cuts do not appear arbitrary and her reasoning is sound: education, transportation and public safety projects were the priority.

She and her administration looked at projects to judge whether funding should come from another source — local or federal governments, for example.

The end result shows Palin exercising caution with the public's money. That's an action that's hard to argue with. If the state saves during good times, the lean times will require fewer Draconian budget cuts.

No, it may not have been pretty, but the decisions have been made — for now. And there is an upside: The cuts always could have been a lot worse.



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