Economist stands by prediction of government growth in 2009

Economist stands by prediction of government growth in 2009

Posted: Sunday, January 25, 2009

News consumers may have noticed apparently conflicting announcements of a hiring freeze in state government from Gov. Sarah Palin's State of the State speech Thursday and economists' prediction that government would be Alaska's only growing economic sector in 2009.

Pat Burden, president of the Anchorage consulting firm Northern Economics, stood by his firm's economic forecast and pointed to the $825 billion stimulus package working its way through Congress.

"There are billions and billions of dollars going to federal agencies and then funneled to state agencies in its current configuration," Burden said Friday. "Alaska will get its fair share. There will be no need for a hiring freeze as soon as that bill is signed into law."

Burden and other representatives of the firm were in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau last week delivering the firm's economic outlook for 2009 to business communities. Burden's presentation in Juneau, in which he said growth in local, state and federal governments would be a stabilizing force in Alaska's economy as recession sets in, preceded the governor's State of the State speech Thursday night by just a few hours.

Palin's spokesman, Bill McAllister, also took a stab at reconciling the two messages.

"I'm not going to argue with an economist. ... I don't believe her speech cited the duration of the hiring freeze," McAllister said.

However, Palin budget director Karen Rehfeld said the freeze would last through at least June, the Associated Press reported.

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