The Palin administration is looking to cut $150 million in spending from the state budget. An important story this year will be just how those cuts will be made and where they will come from.
In a Jan. 19 memo, Office of Management and Budget director Karen Rehfeld asked each department to come up with suggestions, or options, of where cuts or efficiencies could be made in their shop.
Those reports were due Thursday, according to the memo.
Friday, we tried to get copies.
No such luck.
Palin spokesman Charles Fedullo said Friday the administration would not hand out the reports because they are part of “the deliberative process.”
Palin’s budget team plans to meet over the next month, and may use the departments' suggestions to help craft an amended budget that goes before the Legislature by March 1.
As a candidate, transparency and open government were hallmarks of Palin's campaign.
Even if the administration can legally deny a request for the info, why do it?
“We feel like an open, transparent government provides fair, fleshed out information. And at this point, these reports would be inaccurate reflections of what is likely to come,” Fedullo said.
Later in the day, I talked to Rehfeld, who said not all the departments have turned the reports in yet.
“These proposals, at this point, are draft. They’re for discussion purposes. When we get all the way through the process, they will be public documents,” she said.
Finally, late Friday night, Palin's office said they wanted to think it over -- maybe the info would be released -- and said we'd hear back in 24 hours.
The following e-mail came from Palin spokeswoman Meghan Stapleton Saturday. The answer was still no.
Thanks for your patience regarding this matter. We still believe that the documents must remain part of the deliberative process. Below are my comments, on behalf of the office:
"The budget documents must remain part of the deliberative process.
Why should the media see the suggested budget changes before the Governor? Without a doubt, the Governor should be able to review the suggestions before the media. Her review will not take place until our OMB director sits down with each department and listens to the justifications of each suggested cut. Changes are expected to be made and then forwarded to the Governor. The Governor will review, other
changes could still be made, and then the Governor's proposed
efficiencies and cuts will be forwarded to the Legislature and to the public at the same time. At that point in time, it proves most beneficial for the public to see the budget proposals because it will include actual proposed cuts and not just suggested ones. The public will then have ample opportunity to weigh in and comment on what looks good and what doesn't look good.
What good does it do the public now to see suggested cuts that the
Governor may not even want. It only serves to spread an inaccurate picture of a budget that's not even before the Governor - and will not be before the Governor - for some time. It only serves to inflame and agitate individuals who may not ultimately be impacted at all. Thank you for your understanding."
Governor Sarah Palin