Anchorage Assembly overrides all but one of Mayor Bronson’s vetoes

Anchorage Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance
Anchorage Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance
Published: Dec. 10, 2021 at 6:35 PM AKST|Updated: Dec. 10, 2021 at 6:38 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage Assembly voted to override all but one of Mayor Dave Bronson’s vetoes on Friday night.

The assembly passed an amended budget on Nov. 23. Bronson then issued vetoes to many items that had been amended from his original budget on Nov. 30.

In a special meeting at City Hall, the assembly voted 9-2 to override vetoes of the general operating budget and the capital improvement budget. In an amendment from

The vote to override Bronson’s veto on the municipal utilities/enterprise activities for both capital and operating budgets passed by an 8-3 vote.

An amendment from Budget and Finance committee co-chair Austin Quinn-Davidson moved to override all of the vetoes Bronson had issued to the operating budget AO 2021-96 except for a veto of $196,057 to move the cost for the Director of Enterprise Services position from the Municipal Manager’s department to utilities and enterprises.

Assembly members Jamie Allard and Crystal Kennedy voted in opposition to every veto override. John Weddleton also voted against the motion to override the veto of AO 2021-98.

“I fundamentally disagree with this decision,” Bronson said.Spending in the Municipality ballooned 20% from 2016 to 2021, while our population declined by nearly 15,000 residents. We must reign in spending and put taxpayers first. I will continue fighting to make government more efficient, responsible, and accountable to the people of Anchorage. We simply cannot spend more than we have.”

Votes to override vetoes were taken up in three sections. Line item amendments were made to all three vetoes prior to override votes.

“The amendments we approved affect a very small portion of the municipality’s overall budget, yet will have long-lasting positive impacts on our community,” Quinn-Davidson said. “Today we funded school resource officers, building safety inspectors, the fire department mobile crisis team, domestic violence prevention and pre-K education. We also added critical infrastructure projects to the Parks bond. Our community came out strong in support of these popular and successful programs and the Assembly listened.”

In statements supporting the vetoes, Bronson cited the announcement of the omicron variant and global investment markets as a reason that funding sources were not certifiable.

“My administration cannot validate or certify the funding source increases that the Assembly provided for the vetoed items identified,” Bronson wrote.

Assembly counsel Bill Falsey presented his analysis of the assembly’s power of appropriation and the debate over legality of appropriation and certification of funds.

“The charter says you may reduce appropriations as you deem necessary,” Falsey said to members of the assembly. “The charter makes very clear that you are in charge of the appropriation process, you get to decide what the municipal budget is.”

Falsey then began to review sections of city code and charter, noting the date which portions of charter were enacted and how it pertained to the debate over the legality of the veto override process.

“You can decide as you deem necessary what to do with the appropriations and what revenues to project,” Falsey said. “My legal advice to you is that it is within your authority to override vetoes today if you believe the revenue projections are credible and are in the best interest at this time.”

Counsel from the Anchorage Department of Law provided counterarguments concerning the legality of veto overrides, fund appropriation and projections related to the budget. Members of the assembly debated arguments over whether the city’s Chief Financial Officer alone held power to appropriate funds from the budget, or if that power is held by the assembly. These debates took place prior to the vote on AO 2021-96 for the operating budget.

“What you are proposing gives more power to the CFO than anyone else elected by constituents,” Assembly member Austin Quinn-Davidson said. “That is absurd and the CFO is hired and fired by the mayor, so you are saying that the mayor gets to put any CFO he wants who can undermine everything the assembly does when we are elected by our constituents. That is absurd.”

In closing comments, assembly member Forrest Dunbar thanked municipal staff and noted that the changes in the approximately $550 million budget were about $3 million.

“This budget debate and amendment process was a great example of how government should work. We considered many ideas, had thoughtful debates, compromised, and made decisions based on community input,” Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance said. “I want to thank the Budget and Finance Committee co-chairs, Forrest Dunbar and Austin Quinn-Davidson for their hard work in developing the amendment package, and all of the Assembly members for the countless hours they put into researching issues, listening to community members, and developing solutions.”

Editor’s note: This article has been clarified to reflect that all but one of Bronson’s vetoes were overridden by the assembly.

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