State seeks $461 million from stimulus

Alaska likely to receive closer to $175 million

Posted: Wednesday, February 25, 2009

JUNEAU - Gov. Sarah Palin submitted a spending bill to lawmakers on Tuesday asking that they authorize $461 million from the federal stimulus package for infrastructure projects in Alaska.

Palin's supplemental bill is asking for more than $285 million over what the state expects to receive in transportation projects from the stimulus bill.

The state, instead, expects about $175 million. But state transportation officials earlier this week told lawmakers that the administration would be requesting additional spending authorization in case Alaska receives money that was destined for other states that failed to meet the "use it or lose it" deadline.

Fifty percent of the money must be pledged to specific projects within 120 days.

Palin's bill would provide funds for aviation, transit, highway and bridge projects under the law President Barack Obama signed a week ago.

"This is a jobs bill. We will create jobs and address needed Alaskan transportation infrastructure improvements with these funds," Palin said in a letter to lawmakers.

The bill asks for $302 million for highways, $45.6 million for aviation projects and $9.1 million for transit projects.

At the top of the highway spending list is $107.4 million for the governor's priorities relating to infrastructure for the proposed natural gas pipeline.

Her requests include $55 million in improvements to the Dalton Highway that links interior Alaska with the North Slope, and $25 million in rut repairs to the Glenn Highway.

Another $19 million goes directly to the Anchorage transportation authority to decide how road money will be spent there.

Transportation officials this week presented a list of $175 million in projects to various legislators and committees.

Senate Finance Committee co-Chairman Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, said lawmakers can work with the department's priority list.

"We have some concerns on some of projects ranked further down but I think it will be fairly easy to come up with a compromise," Stedman said.

"It's been evident for well over a month that the governor's priority is gas line infrastructure and indeed that's at top of the DOT list. But then again, there's lots of room at bottom of the list."

Palin's office said the bill is the first in a series of requests that will be necessary for Alaska to participate in the federal economic stimulus package.

Legislative leaders and Palin plan to meet later this week to discuss the package, which is estimated to hold about $1 billion in federal spending and tax cuts for Alaska.

Lawmakers aren't expected to take up the governor's supplemental request until the second week of March. Many are attending an annual energy council meeting in Washington, D.C., next week.

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