Feds spend lots in Alaska, less in region

National average is $5,555 per person; Alaska is $8,521

Posted: Tuesday, April 18, 2000

WASHINGTON - The federal government spent less money per person in the Pacific Northwest last year than it did in the rest of the nation, according to a report by the Census Bureau.

Uncle Sam spent an average $5,518 for each of the 11.8 million people in Washington state, Oregon, Alaska, Idaho and Montana, compared with $5,555 per person nationwide - a shortfall of $37 each.

On a state-by-state basis, Oregon was the worst off in the region, getting $4,702 for each man, woman and child. Idaho received $4,925 per person.

But Alaska led the nation with $8,521 per person. Montana ranked seventh, with $7,052 per capita. Washington state was just above the national average at $5,558.

Why does Oregon get so little compared with other states?

Bill Conerly, an economist and consultant in Portland, Ore., cites ``a long history of dove-ish representation'' in Congress that made the state a low priority for defense dollars.

The military poured $1.4 billion into Alaska last year, accounting for 27 percent of the state's per capita federal spending. Washington state landed $6.3 billion for defense, accounting for 20 percent of its federal dollars.

Oregon received nearly $840 million in military dollars, accounting for just 5 percent of the state's per capita federal spending.

Last year was a good one for states with a strong military presence. Defense spending in the United States - including payroll, defense contracts and military pensions - was up nearly 5 percent from 1998.

Montana's No. 7 ranking is partly the result of being a large state with a small population. The state took in about as much as Oregon did for highway planing and construction - $267 million. But Montana has just a little more than 25 percent of Oregon's population.

Political clout doesn't hurt, either. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee and Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., chairs the panel's interior subcommittee.

When it comes to total federal spending, Washington and Oregon, the region's population leaders, led the Northwest with nearly $32 billion in Washington and $15.6 billion in Oregon.

Some of the larger spending categories in Washington state included $7.9 billion for Social Security, $4.4 billion for guaranteed loans, nearly $3.2 billion for Medicare and about $2 billion for Medicaid.

Oreogn's spending included $5.1 billion for Social Security, nearly $2 billion for Medicare, nearly $1.8 billion for guaranteed loans and $1.4 billion for Medicaid.

On the Net: Federal funds report: www.census.gov/govs/ www/cffr99.html.

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