Commentary: By rejecting stimulus money, Palin sells Alaska short

March 26, 2009 

This editorial appeared in The Anchorage Daily News.

With her shocking decision to reject nearly a third of the state's share of federal stimulus money, Gov. Palin has sold Alaska short.

Instead of carefully parsing each item for potentially unacceptable federal strings, she summarily rejected all money that isn't for Medicaid or construction projects. The Legislature must act quickly to reverse her knee-jerk decision and claim Alaska's rightful share of federal economic assistance. Gov. Palin performed an amputation when a surgical cut here and there is all that might have been necessary. Strings attached to some federal money for unemployment relief and energy conservation were a legitimate concern, but mindlessly rejecting more than $170 million for education and public safety is inexcusable.

In announcing the move, she decried "federal interference in Alaskans' lives through the growth of government." That's hard to say with a straight face, considering she's the leader of a state where one-third of the entire economy depends on federal spending. It's akin to a person on food stamps saying "I'm not taking your help because I don't believe in welfare."

In Gov. Palin's simplistic view, capital projects are wonderful gifts, miraculously free of any future operating expenses, while accepting other federal stimulus money inflicts unbearably burdensome future spending obligations.

She really had to stretch to justify her wholesale rejection of federal money. Her press release cited the National Endowment of the Arts funding as an example of "education" aid that Alaska couldn't afford to sustain, when in fact that money goes to the arts, not education. In any event, Alaska doesn't have to make up that spending when federal money stops. And the arts money is only $50 million for the entire country, so Alaska's share is so small, it's hardly worth fussing about.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Anchorage Daily News.

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