Trying to win support for struggling communities, Gov. Sarah Palin welcomed a dozen mayors to her office Tuesday in hopes of giving her budget request of $48 million in revenue sharing a boost in the Alaska Legislature.
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"We'll fight hard for municipal revenue sharing to stay in the budget," said Palin, a former Wasilla mayor.
Her budget proposal included municipal revenue sharing in the state's operating budget, but it was removed by legislators.
Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich praised Palin's commitment to use state money to help cities and boroughs in dire financial straits. It's an important question for both large and small communities, he said.
"We're glad to see a mayor in the governor's position," he said.
Anchorage uses its revenue sharing for property tax relief. Alaska's largest city would account for $22 million of the $48 million total.
"In our community the dollars go directly back to the property-tax payers of Anchorage," he said.
Some smaller towns need the money just to keep running. In the tiny community of Aleknagik, Councilwoman Kay Andrews said, the money would be used for more basic needs.
"It means we'll be able to provide the services that are essential to our city," she said. They include high maintenance and energy costs. Aleknagik has a population of 221 and is 16 miles northwest of Dillingham.
Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee said it was the intent of the Legislature - or at least the Senate - to share state revenue with communities.
While Palin and the mayors had hoped to have revenue sharing in the operating budget every year, Hoffman said it may be a separate, one-time appropriation as part of the capital budget this year.
Lawmakers would "next year address a longer-term solution," he said.
Palin said this year, when the state has the money, is the time to cover the basics.
Ketchikan Gateway Borough Mayor Joe Williams, who also serves as mayor of the city of Saxman, said he was concerned the Legislature may deal with the looming retirement funds issue and fail to address revenue sharing for small cities.
His communities, he said, need the money for essential services.
"We'll be able to remove snow," he said. "You in Juneau know what that means."
Pat Forgey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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