Monday, May 4, 2009

Update on federal stimulus: Palin accepts most and is bound by Legislators

When the Legislature voted unanimously to accept all of the federal stimulus money allocated for Alaska, it really backed Palin into a corner. She received no support from fellow Republicans. The elected officials for their constituency voted to accept and it wouldn't be good if Palin vetoed against their wishes, which are, in effect, the wishes of their constituency.

It was a lose-lose situation for Palin. The dangerous strings attached to the money and increased federal oversight on state projects will be bad for Alaskan growth, and when it does reveal itself to be a problem, they'll blame Palin for accepting the money. However, if she had vetoed it they would accuse her of being a power-mongering dictator who vetoes against the public will. It's just a lose-lose.

It's just like how the Alaska Legislators can take a week-long break from the legislative session without hesitation but point fingers at Palin when she took one day off to speak at a dinner. They have no problem throwing Palin under the bus time and again whenever they need a scapegoat.

But the bright spot is that Palin did try her best to do what was good for the state in her opinion. She warned of all the issues related to accepting the money. Hopefully the Legislature can "own" this and not blame Palin when things go South.

Governor accepts
Fairbanks Daily Newsminer
Federal stimulus dollars will add to state spending
Published Thursday, April 30, 2009

The plan to spend almost $1 billion federal stimulus funding in Alaska appears well set now, following Gov. Sarah Palin’s announcement Tuesday that she would not oppose the major elements of legislative action on the money.

This newspaper on Sunday suggested the governor veto a substantial portion of state funding and let the holes be backfilled with federal money. That seems a prudent course, given the need to conserve state savings for the day when those savings will be needed to avoid driving Alaska’s government off a fiscal cliff.

The Legislature and governor have agreed to some backfilling. About $128 million in federal money will replace, dollar-for-dollar, part of the state’s spending on Medicaid. Another few million will replace some state spending on child support enforcement.

More could have been done. For example, the governor proposed during the session that the Legislature use about $120 million, mostly in federal education funds, to replace some of money the state sends to Alaska’s school districts. The Legislature instead tacked the federal money on top of regular school expenditures — a choice that has some merit and obviously has pleased school officials. Those officials promise not to use the money to create an unsustainable increase in staffing.

The governor still could issue vetoes and then ask that the Legislature rearrange the federal money to backfill some of the cuts, but that appears unlikely now.

The governor has accepted most of the Legislature’s actions, according to her statement and news release Tuesday. The lead paragraph of the news release announced that she “acknowledged” the legislative decisions, but the details that followed indicate she has accepted them. If that’s the case, it should be stated more clearly in the future.

The governor would face a major procedural hurdle to any vetoes designed to force a reallocation of federal funds. Additional backfilling with federal money would not occur automatically if she vetoed the state money. To make the backfilling happen, the Legislature would need to reconvene and amend the spending bills to redirect the federal funds into any holes left by the vetoes.

That outcome seems unlikely. Given our legislators’ demonstrated enthusiasm for laying federal dollar on top of state dollar, they likely would override the vetoes and go home. The governor, in that case, would have accomplished nothing and suffered a second public defeat to boot.

No, the die has been set. The federal dollars will fall as the Legislature has decreed, mostly on top of the state’s own.

No comments: