Alaska will fully wean itself from federal earmarks, Gov. Sean Parnell said Thursday.
“The state of Alaska will not be requesting any earmarks this year,” he said.
For the first time in recent memory, Alaska will be making no earmark requests to the U.S. Congress, and will either fund formerly earmarked programs itself or, more likely, work with existing programs to see Alaska’s needs are met.
Some of last year’s biggest state earmark requests were for fisheries research, including implementation of the Pacific Salmon Treaty and research into the Steller sea lion.
“If we need money for fishery research related to Steller sea lions, then we work with our Congressional delegation to get a national effort toward research,” he said.
Last year the state sought $8 million for salmon and $3.2 million for Steller sea lion research.
Alaska’s next biggest request was for the Department of Public Safety for domestic violence and sexual assault prevention and investigation.
“If we need funding, and we do, to fight domestic violence and sexual assault, that’s relevant to every state,” he said.
That’s something the federal delegation needs to work on to get the money all Alaskans pay in taxes back to the Alaska, he said.
“We recognize the reality of needing to get our taxpayer dollars back in different ways,” he said.
That’s not a new stance for Parnell, who has long been critical of the earmark system, despite its use by the Alaska delegation to bring big benefits to Alaska, especially when Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young were serving in key positions and able to direct substantial sums to Alaska.
Parnell said at a press conference in Juneau Thursday he’d discussed this with Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich on a recent trip to the nation’s capital. He said he was unable to meet with Young because the Congressman was in Alaska.
Parnell, while serving as then-Gov. Sarah Palin’s lieutenant governor, challenged Young, a prominent proponent of the earmark process. Parnell’s campaign was strongly backed by the Club for Growth, a national group opposing earmarks and taxes.
Parnell though said his position was a reflection of the current anti-earmarks mood in Washington, D.C., and the Alaska delegation’s lack of clout to change things.
“Let’s recognize the new reality,” he said.
The lack of state earmark requests may be less significant than it sounds, however. Last year the state requested $22.4 million in earmarks for eight projects. That was down from $250 million for 63 projects in 2007, the state’s highest request amount.
And Alaska’s view only applies to state government requests. Federal budget watchers last year said that the state’s $22.4 million request was only a tiny part of $3 billion in requests made from Alaska cities, community groups, Native corporations, tribes and others.
• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or firstname.lastname@example.org.