JUNEAU -- A leader behind an initiative to re-establish a coastal management program in Alaska is taking issue with the program cost estimates that Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell plans to share at an upcoming round of hearings.
Bruce Botelho said he believes the estimated cost of $5.4 million, particularly during the program's first years, is too high. The figure was generated by the governor's Office of Management and Budget late last year and included in petition booklets during the signature-gathering stage of the initiative process. OMB said the state would bear the full cost until the program is federally approved and eligible for federal funds. Federal approval can take up to two years, it said.
But Botelho noted that the state Commerce commissioner provided a first-year program estimate of $2.9 million to a state senator in March. Lawmakers included that amount in the budget, contingent upon passage of the initiative. That was later vetoed by Gov. Sean Parnell, with his spokeswoman saying the administration would request money for the program if the initiative passes.
The initiative is on the Aug. 28 primary ballot.
Botelho, in an email earlier this week, said he suspects Treadwell "will actively promote the higher number, while maintaining an aura of impartiality."
A spokeswoman for Treadwell, Michelle Toohey, said it's appropriate for the lieutenant governor to present the estimate included in the petition booklets.
"OMB looked at the precedent of the old program and made an estimate of uncertainties" in the proposal, she said. A summary indicated the cost estimate "may be high or low," depending on decisions made by the board that would be created by the initiative.
Botelho challenged the estimates during a legislative hearing and Toohey said that challenge is on the record. She said he also is welcome to raise any objections to the estimate during next month's hearings on the initiative.
Botelho said his group "should not be forced to devote our time arguing about the cost of the program."
The hearings -- set to include arguments for and against the initiative -- are required under a state law aimed at greater disclosure surrounding initiatives. This proposal is the first to fall under the law.
Botelho said Wednesday that he hadn't raised his concerns directly with Treadwell, as he learned of the plan to use the OMB cost estimate during the hearings from a news article.