Warning that anyone accepting federal stimulus funds from Washington should “read the fine print,” Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is urging her fellow Alaskans not to “sell our birthright for short-term gain.”
Palin’s comments came in an opinion column defending her decision to reject close to a third of the $930 million in stimulus funds allocated for her state in the $787 billion bill signed into law by President Obama.
Critics charge she is turning down the money to reinforce her conservative credentials and bolster a presumed 2012 presidential run – an accusation Palin’s representatives staunchly deny. In addition to Palin, GOP governors rejecting at least some federal stimulus funds include: Texas Gov. Rick Perry, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindahl.
“Shovel ready or digging a hole?” is the title of the Palin opinion piece published this weekend’s Anchorage Daily News.
Palin acknowledges federal stimulus dollars are “tempting,” but also says she “must consider whether they create sustainability, help develop our resources, reduce dependency on Washington, and all without mortgaging our kids’ futures.”
Accepting the federal largesse, Palin says, would hurt Alaska’s long-term future. She adds that as governor she is required to certify that the federal dollars would boost the economy.
“Unfortunately,” she writes, “a disproportionate percentage of the federal package available to Alaska would increase government operations. It’s a stretch to certify that more spending on more bureaucracy actually grows an economy.”
Palin says accepting temporary federal dollars would just make the state’s finances worse in the long run.
“When stimulus money runs out in two years, who will pay for the expanded government programs, when Alaska currently has a budget shortfall of over a billion dollars? My administration will not willingly and knowingly dig a hole for Alaskans to fill under this enormous, debt-ridden, Washington spending plan,” she writes.
With the national debt already over $11 trillion, Palin says it’s a mistake to view the federal funds as “free money.”
Palin also provided several examples of what she called “federal intrusion” associated with the stimulus plan: Alaska communities, she says, would have to adopt international energy codes. “These standards should be locally determined, not federally mandated,” she writes. If Alaska were to accept additional money for unemployment benefits, it would have to extend the eligibility period. “This federal involvement locks us into government dependency for longer periods,” she states. Matching funds are required for some federal programs, she states. “Alaskans must read the fine print on these federal mandates, because certain allocations also require state-matching funds.”
Palin concludes, “When Alaska was granted statehood, it was with the expectation that our independent, innovative spirit and rich resources would largely sustain us, rather than depending on federal government. Creating more dependence on Washington steers us away from Alaska’s magnificent potential and destiny, and that, to me, is a problem.
“My job is to help Alaskans count the cost for the long term, not sell our birthright for short-term gain. Alaskans must acknowledge that if we dig a fiscal hole, it will be filled by our families and businesses. Reliance on Washington is not our only option. We could exercise fiscal responsibility and prudent planning, develop our resources, energize Alaskans, and revitalize our spirit. We are up to the challenge. This is the best lesson we can teach our children.”
Palin added, however, that she won’t block attempts to obtain federal dollars by circumventing her office.
“I’m approaching federal funds and mandates with caution, but won’t stand in the way of organizations or communities applying to the feds for funding their own expansions,” she wrote.
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