When she vetoed $268 million in capital projects approved by lawmakers in the $3.6-billion 2008-09 capital budget, former Gov. Sarah Palin was perplexed at the outcry up and down the state from those whose cherished projects had been cut—with backers of a number of school building projects complaining perhaps the loudest.
Fire stations, emergency services and road improvements also got the ax. One unnamed official said she was “stunned by how many school projects were actually cut,” reported Karen Rehfield, director of the Alaska Office of Management and Budget.
In a series of wounded emails, Palin administration staffers made it clear they thought they should have been congratulated for their fiscal discipline. Palin was mad that the account in the Anchorage Daily News failed to mention that some of the projects had been only partially cut, or moved up to the following year’s budget.
“Man, we struggle with getting the reporters to ‘get it,'…I need to concentrate more on writing the story for them so they don’t miss the point,” Palin said in an email to her budget directors. “I’m proud of what we did through this process,” she said.
Former Revenue Commissioner Patrick Galvin also made the point that the administration had skillfully steered the state into a sound financial position. “For me, the most frustrating aspect of the veto news stories is the comparison of the capital budget vetoes to the operating budget vetoes. What the public doesn’t see or understand is the budget discipline you exercise during the crafting of the operating budget,” Galvin wrote. “The fact that the operating budget was not subject to public vetoes at this point in the process was in large part because the Governor kept a tight ship during the formation of her budget.”
Even some fellow Republicans in Juneau were arguing that, with oil revenues on the upswing, there was no need to make all the budget cuts because there was plenty of money to pay for the allocations.
“I’ve been praying that your message continues to be received positively. I’m confident you crafted fair and balanced budgets,” senior staffer Ivy Frye said in an email to the governor. “Praying also that He continues to protect all of us from those who, no matter what we do, scheme against us.”
“Glad you like it,” Palin wrote back. “Let’s see what the public says.”