Group condemns Stevens' spending; Alaskans say projects have merit

Posted: Monday, April 10, 2000

WASHINGTON - Alaskans were served the largest slices of pork in the nation this year, according to a government watchdog group. But some of the diners involved say they received nothing more than federal-issue boiled potatoes.

The Citizens Against Government Waste issued its annual ``Pig Book'' here last week, listing billions of dollars in projects that detoured around the kind of public process the group advocates.

Alaska led the nation in per capita spending on such work. In fact, Alaska's $394 million in CAGW-defined ``pork'' gave it a per capita share of $636, exceeding the next two states combined. The national average was $25.

In the report, credit for the Alaska spending is given almost exclusively to Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Stevens turned aside a request for an interview late last week. The group has issued such a report for several years, and Stevens usually is a major target.

``We don't dignify it with a response,'' said Connie Godwin, Stevens' press secretary.

Godwin noted Alaska is a relatively youthful state, has a large military presence and a high number of federal employees, and contains 70 percent of the federal land in the nation, she noted.

In a listing of the 365 most ``egregious and blatant'' spending examples, CAGW questions $38.5 million for Alaska in this year's Interior appropriations bill. That includes $3.65 million for Denali National Park and Preserve and $7.9 million for the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.

``I would disagree,'' said John Quinley, National Park Service spokesman in Anchorage, when told of the ``pork'' label on his agency's money.

The Denali dollars will pay for improvements near the park's headquarters, including parking and road realignments to accommodate a new railroad terminal, showers, laundry and post office.

Most of the money for the buildings will come from the Alaska Railroad, the U.S. Postal Service and the park concessionaire, he noted.

The $7.9 million for the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge has its defenders, too. The money will build a new headquarters for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Homer.

The agency currently rents six different spaces in Homer, paying $176,000 a year, said Karen Boylan, an Anchorage spokeswoman. A 50-year building for $7.9 million is a much better deal for the taxpayers, Boylan said. Land for the headquarters was purchased a decade ago.

It's not just pork for Homer, she said. ``We get visitors from all over the country, and they get to use it too.''

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