ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Gov. Sarah Palin on Thursday became the only governor to turn down federal stimulus money for energy efficiency, a move that legislators called "disappointing" for a state with some of the country's highest energy costs.
In announcing the veto of $28.6 million in funds, Palin said she wouldn't accept money tied to adoption of building codes by local governments.
"Alaskans and our communities have a long history of independence and opposing many mandates from Washington, D.C.," Palin said in a statement announcing the veto.
Palin had earlier accepted about $900 million in other federal stimulus funds.
State budget director Karen Rehfeld said the Republican governor was concerned that in accepting the money, she would be required to promote the adoption of local building codes. To qualify for the federal money, 90 percent of new and renovated structures in the state would have to be constructed under energy efficiency standards between 2009 and 2017.
"The governor believes these are decisions best left to local governments," Rehfeld said.
State Sens. Bill Wielechowski and Lesil McGuire, both of Anchorage, had urged Palin to accept the money. Wielechowski, a Democrat, said Thursday that Alaska was close or had reached the federal mandate.
"The way it's set up if one state rejects the money, it doesn't go back to federal treasury, it gets divvied up to every other state that accepted it," he said. "Basically the governor has written a check out to the other states."
U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, an Alaska Democrat, said nearly a third of the requests sent to his office from state communities and nonprofits were related to energy reduction.
"With Alaskans facing the highest energy prices in the nation, it's disappointing that our governor is turning thumbs down on federal funding that could help our families and communities reduce their energy bills," Begich said.
Wielechowski said he would support a move to override Palin's veto, which would require support from three-quarters of both chambers. McGuire, a Republican, said she also would support an override, but warned that the rally would be daunting for the scattered legislature.
In her statement, Palin noted there was not "a lot of support for the federal government to coerce Alaska communities to adopt building codes," but acknowledged that an override was a possibility.