Petersburg’s borough government may send some elected officials to the state capital this month to lobby for a veto override for state ferry funding.
The borough assembly Monday approved travel spending for the mayor, manager and one or two assembly members. It would be part of an effort discussed among members of the Alaska Municipal League. AML members last year passed a resolution seeking a veto override for five million dollars that the legislature voted to add back into this year’s budget for the Alaska Marine Highway. Governor Mike Dunleavy vetoed that money in August. That was on top of 44 million dollars in budget cutting the legislature OK’d for the ferry system. The reductions have meant long service gaps for coastal communities this year.
Borough manager Steve Giesbrecht explained to the assembly the intent of the lobbying effort.
“The conversation was about do you want to send some city folks up there to run around the capital and try to get enough votes together to lobby the governor and basically overturn his veto and add five million back to the marine highway,” the manager explained.
The vote was unanimous to spend travel money to send a delegation to the state capital for this effort. The timing and other details of that lobbying has not yet been finalized.
The votes of three-fourths of the legislature are needed for a veto override. That’s 45 of the 60 legislators. And there’s a very limited window for overriding vetoes from last session, namely the first five days of the new session, which starts January 21st.
State senate leaders were asked about the possibility for veto overrides on Tuesday’s Talk of Alaska on Alaska Public Media.
“You know there were things that were cut in that budget that many of us are concerned about, one of them’s right here, public radio,” said Senate minority leader Tom Begich. “You know this is critical to rural Alaska, it’s a critical component. But what we don’t want to do is begin to split out each individual veto because what that does is it drives wedges between the House and the Senate, between house members and house members and senate members and senate members, that’s not productive. What is productive is if we can agree collectively in a general override of those vetoes we do have the ability to do so.”
Both Begich and Senate president Cathy Giessel said they had not yet seen the 45 votes needed for an override.
Petersburg also plans to send representatives to the AML winter conference in February to lobby legislators on other priorities.