$250 million for Alaska in budget

Posted: Tuesday, December 19, 2000

FAIRBANKS -- The fisheries industry and social programs aimed at villages across Alaska were the state's largest beneficiaries in the omnibus budget bill approved by Congress last week.

The final budget measure, passed Friday, is expecting to be signed by President Clinton this week. U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican, delayed congressional approval while he obtained language easing fishing restrictions along the Gulf of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands.

In total, Alaska's take under the spending bill for seven departments of the federal government exceeds $250 million. Much of that money underscores Stevens' use of his chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee to address fundamental problems in Native villages, including unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse, child abuse and community policing.

Among the Alaska provisions impacting rural villages:

$15 million for the Alaska Native Education Equity Act, $1 million of which would pay for student exchanges between rural and urban Alaska.

$15 million to the Alaska Federation of Natives for an alcohol control effort.

About $3.3 million to Alaska Native nonprofit corporations to continue regional job training efforts.

New job training efforts, mostly through Native nonprofits, worth about $4.5 million. About $500,000 would go to the University of Alaska and the Ketchikan Shipyard for retraining timber workers.

An additional $3.4 million to develop telecommunications links between rural villages and medical centers in Alaska's larger cities.

Major Alaska fishing projects included in the measure:

At least $30 million for research into declining Steller sea lion populations.

$14 million for the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward.

$60 million to build a fund intended as an endowment to pay for implementation of the Pacific Salmon Treaty Agreement.

$15 million for a new fisheries lab at Juneau.

$10 million for salmon restoration projects around Alaska.

$15 million for research boats.

Doubled funding, to $1.8 million, for the International Pacific Halibut Commission.

The spending package also includes a Medicaid provision worth about $200 million over five years for the state sponsored by Alaska Sen. Frank Murkowski, and a provision the senator negotiated with the Clinton administration and the cruise ship industry to curb dumping of waste in Alaska waters.

The appropriations bill also contains a 3.375 percent pay increase and a reduction in mandatory pension contributions reduced.

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