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Lawmakers earmark funds to educate public on possible ballot proposals


Last updated 4/27/2008 at Noon

The Alaska Legislature has included $25,000 in its fiscal 2009 capital budget to fund a public education campaign on Alaska mining and regulations.

Rep. John Coghill, R-North Pole, and House Majority Leader Ralph Samuels, R-Anchorage, added the budget item to enable state officials to talk about the impact initiatives 07WATR and 07WTR might have on Alaska's mining industry. The initiatives appear to be headed for the ballot in August.

The first draft of the budget item read "to influence the outcome of an election on initiatives affecting those mining activities." On April 12 the Alaska House of Representatives amended the language to say "may" influence the election.

Gov. Sarah Palin, whose office will direct the educational outreach, said the funds will be used to allow state officials to inform the public about Alaska mining, the stringent permitting process already in place to govern mining, and to provide data on initiatives affecting those mining activities.

"This budget item did not originate from my office, and it would not be our intention to influence a ballot initiative. If lawmakers decide to allocate public money for this, we will ensure the Department of Natural Resources provides objective, factual information about the impacts of mining-related initiatives for voters to consider. Alaskans deserve to hear the facts from their government," Palin said.

Ed Fogels, director of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources Office of Project Management & Permitting, said DNR has been nervous about educating the public on the effects of the proposed ballot initiatives because that could be perceived as an attempt to influence the election.

Two judges have ruled on the initiatives, saying that if the initiatives were passed into law, they would shut down mining in Alaska. From a regulatory standpoint, Fogels said, "it is perfectly clear that if the initiatives were passed that the state would not be able to permit mines." Both Palin and DNR said the budget request originated in the Legislature and that neither of their offices was involved in its creation.



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