Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lawmakers, Palin set to discuss stimulus funds on Thursday

As you know, Palin only accepted about two thirds of the federal stimulus for Alaska. But Alaska lawmakers could still apply and for and receive more stimulus money on their own. Palin says she wants them to decide and see for themselves how dangerous it could be to accept this money. She still has the option to veto anything they apply for, though. Palin is really committed to the legislature's purpose of serving the people. She knows they were elected to represent their constituency and that what she's allowing them to do. It's not a dictatorship. She's being very generous when others could have just said "my way or the highway." You know with Palin that is not the case.

In this article, you can see Republican Representative Mike Hawker going against the Governor as usual. He's one of the cronies of the "good ol' boy" Republican party in Alaska who hates Palin's policies of non-corruption. He goes against her on nearly every issue.

You can also see people laying the groundwork to falsely accuse Palin of not spending money for special needs education. Not accepting federal stimulus money for the cause gives that impression but it's not the truth. If they listened to Palin's arguments for not accepting the money instead of just creating strawmen they would know that plenty of state funding goes to special education. Palin's warning has always been the "strings attached" to this federal money and accepting it could actually do harm to the state programs they have in place. Hopefully they'll understand that.
Lawmakers, Palin set to discuss stimulus funds on Thursday
by Rhonda McBride
Wednesday, March 25, 2009

JUNEAU, Alaska -- Senate and House leaders are scheduled to meet with Gov. Sarah Palin on Thursday to ask her a question that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the state:

If legislators choose to accept federal stimulus money Palin has left on the table, how much of it would she veto?

Alaska's share of the stimulus pie is about $900 million. Palin says she'll ask for two-thirds of it and leave it to lawmakers to decide on the rest.

"The strings attached to Washington's stimulus package are real and they're binding," Palin said at a press conference announcing her decision last week.

Lawmakers are now looking under the hood to see if the governor's budget mechanics are right.

"Once you dig into it, some of the concerns go away about the strings attached. That's overblown in my estimation," Senate Majority Leader Johnny Ellis, D-Anchorage, said.

"This issue here has a lot of moving parts that needed to be sorted out in a short timeframe," Sen. Burt Stedman, R-Ketchikan, said.

Weatherization is one of the moving parts that lawmakers are looking into. Rep. Mike Hawker took the Palin administration to task for its decision to leave $18 million in weatherization money on the table.

"We're a little concerned there that there has been a myth perpetrated on folks who are now using it," Hawker, R-Anchorage, said.

Hawker says the administration has given the impression that tapping these funds would require changes in building codes, which he says is not necessarily true.

One of the biggest slices of the uneaten pie is $170 million in education funds. Educators say a lot of this money could be used to develop training programs that will live on long after the money runs out.

And for special needs kids, it's worth it to get the money, even if it's only temporary.

"It's our most vulnerable kids that are going to be affected if we don't take this education money," said Babrbara Angaiak, president of the National Education Association Alaska, during a Senate Finance Committee hearing.

"It's a very important component in our budget this year. We're looking at losing 60 teaching positions and four nurses," said Jim Colver, president of the Mat-Su School Board.

Both the House and Senate will soon vote on resolutions asking Congress for the entire available stimulus funding.

"It's like making a reservation at a restaurant -- all it does is get you the table," legislative finance aide Larry Persily said. "You don't have to show up. If you show up you don't have to order any particular thing from the menu."

Lawmakers also know there are some things on the menu Palin could refuse to pay for.

"I want to make sure we're not spinning our wheels here, applying for funds the governor has no intention of accepting," Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, said.

And that for lawmakers is the bottom line. Palin has not said what she would veto, nor is she necessarily opposed to accepting the money she left on the table.

Palin says she did this so the Legislature and the public will understand what's at stake before taking it.

Some areas of potential disagreement include $16 million in stimulus money to improve services for the unemployed. It would require the state to expand eligibility but would help the state to modernize its job centers and allow another 1,000 workers to receive benefits.

It would cost employers about $10 a year for each employee, or $2 million. Some lawmakers say it's worth the trade-off. Those against it say it requires permanent changes in state law.

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