What's Sarah Palin have to say about the stimulus package?

February 5, 2009 

JUNEAU -- Gov. Sarah Palin is opposing the federal economic stimulus package pushed by her former campaign adversary, President Barack Obama.

"I agree with the decision of Senator (Lisa) Murkowski and Congressman (Don) Young to vote NO on the package," Palin said in a written statement.

Normally the views of a small-state governor on the stimulus package would draw only local interest. But Palin is a different story. There's been national media speculation about her position and, according to the governor's office, erroneous reports in the Lower 48 indicating that she is supportive of the stimulus.

By Wednesday afternoon, the press statement issued by the governor's office opposing the package was up on Palin's Facebook Web page -- right below an invitation to donate to SarahPAC, her new national political action committee.

Palin also e-mailed a letter to SarahPAC supporters around the country Wednesday, promising to speak out and propose new policies to "ensure that America's best days are ahead of us."

Palin said she agrees some kind of stimulus plan is needed and supports getting federal money for tax breaks and construction projects in the state. But Palin said she's "against increased federal programs that will become a state's unfunded mandate to continue funding for generations."

Palin and Republican leaders of the state Legislature wrote a letter to members of Alaska's Congressional delegation earlier this week expressing that same concern.

Alaska Democratic Sen. Mark Begich said Wednesday that he's pushing for changes to the federal stimulus plan that would allow the state to turn down money if it wants.

Palin hasn't gone so far as to say she'd send money back.

Begich said he's co-sponsoring an amendment "requiring governors or other appropriate local officials to certify that funds allocated to a state for economic recovery are reviewed to make sure they create jobs or improve the economy."

Begich said the funds need oversight but Alaska needs the economic recovery in the bill.

State Senate President Gary Stevens said one of his anxieties about the federal stimulus is that it could increase eligibility for Denali KidCare. That's the state's health insurance program for low-income children.

"If we allow Denali KidCare to include everyone in the state of Alaska who has an income lower than 300 percent of poverty, then we might be stuck with that in the future. We want to be careful about providing programs that next year, when we are on our own, we might have to retract," the Republican from Kodiak told reporters.

Stevens said he can understand why Young voted against the stimulus bill.

Stevens said he was "very nervous, frankly, as a Republican, looking at what I've seen reported. I'm concerned if the federal government can sustain this. And I'm also concerned, does this really stimulate the economy and does it add jobs."

Senate Majority Leader Johnny Ellis, D-Anchorage, disagreed, saying Young and other stimulus opponents don't get it.

"I think Congressman Young is out of touch with Alaskans. There is a lot of anxiety about the future of the country, economically, and the future of our state, and whether we will experience some of the negative effects the Lower 48 is feeling, we are starting to," Ellis said.

"Congressman Young stuck with his political party and I suppose his principles. But I believe he's out of touch with what Alaskans are thinking."

Meanwhile, the White House is pushing hard for the stimulus bill.

The Obama administration Wednesday released state-by-state estimates of the number of jobs created by the stimulus -- as well as the kind of programs that would be supported in it. The White House numbers have to be read in light of the fact that they are part of a lobbying blitz to gain support in state capitols across the country, but there currently aren't any studies to counter them.

The White House estimates the stimulus would "create or save" 8,700 jobs in Alaska over the next two years. It estimates about 220,000 workers and their families would be eligible for a tax cut of up to $1,000.

The measure would also provide tax credits to lower college costs, extend unemployment benefits, and modernize facilities at about 28 schools in Alaska, according to the White House.

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