More Legislature vs. Palin
Posted: April 17, 2009
The antagonism between legislators and Gov. Sarah Palin doesn’t end. Hours after the Legislature voted down the governor’s nominee for attorney general, House Finance Committee members tonight slammed the governor’s aides for not briefing legislators on Palin’s plan for an in-state gas pipeline.
“I’ve had a lot of friction with the governor this year on her lack of connection, frankly the appearance that she’s more concerned about her national ambitions than what’s going on in the state,” Anchorage Republican Rep. Mike Hawker, co-chair of the finance committee, told Palin budget director Karen Rehfeld.
The committee was deciding on a request by Palin for $9 million to help develop a private in-state natural gas pipeline from the North Slope down to the Kenai Peninsula. Hawker and the other co-chair said Palin staffers spoke to legislative leaders about the money -- but several other finance committee members complained this was the first they’d heard of it.
“Nobody from the (Palin) administration has been to my office at all…I see a number of different legislators all shaking their heads, same thing, nobody’s been in their office,” said Kodiak Republican Rep. Alan Austerman.
Haines Republican Rep. Bill Thomas said nobody has spoken to him about gas plan either. Anchorage Democratic Rep. Les Gara -- who questioned if this is a set up to benefit the Enstar "bullet line" project -- said he’s being asked to approve a $9 million plan with no one ever describing to him what it is about.
Hawker said it’s an insult if Palin staffers were only talking to legislative leadership about it and not following up with other members of the state Legislature about something that is supposed to be a high priority for the governor.
“I would offer some counsel and instruction to the (Palin) administration. If this was your highest priority, it is beyond me… 11 people have been sitting at this (finance committee) table all year, you are looking for support for an appropriation and it is just beyond me that you folks didn’t have someone, quite frankly it just never occurred to me that you wouldn’t have talked to everybody on this table,” he said.
Palin budget director Rehfeld responded she is clearly sensing the frustration at the committee.
“We have had this appropriation in our budget for in-state gas since December…it has evolved, but the discussion and the interest and the desire to move forward on in-state gas has been very clear from the administration and we have talked with the committee about the budget request. So the specific design now going through the governor’s office is different, yes, than what we had proposed but I think clearly the governor has been very consistent in her discussion of in-state gas,” Rehfeld told the finance committee.