White House supports funding for Alaska villages

Posted: Thursday, January 20, 2000

ANCHORAGE - The Clinton administration will seek funding for the Denali Commission in the 2001 budget the president sends to Congress.

That marks the first time the White House has explicitly supported the panel created by Sen. Ted Stevens to address basic needs in rural Alaska.

Jeff Staser, the commission's federal co-chairman and chief executive officer, said that's a major breakthrough and a major endorsement.

Up to now, Stevens has been the commission's only champion in the annual budget free-for-all. The Alaska Republican said he thinks the panel has established some credibility.

``I think the commission has proven that it has the facility to assure full utilization of its funding with the least overhead possible,'' Stevens said.

Stevens, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, created the commission two years ago.

Staser said it was not yet clear whether the president's budget will designate around $20 million, which Stevens obtained for the current fiscal year, or more than that. The commission, at its quarterly meeting Friday in Juneau, will consider a proposed $45 million budget for 2001.

The panel is designed to receive federal money to help build roads, water systems and other basic infrastructure in rural Alaska. It would rely on state input for setting its priorities.

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