February 24, 2009
The American Recover and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) signed by President Obama authorizes hundreds of millions of dollars in new federal funding for Alaska. Given the recent downturn in state oil revenues, the Finance Leaders stated in their letter that the bill promises to provided important economic stimulus to Alaska.
According the the letter signed by Senators Bert Stedman (R-Sitka) and Lyman Hoffman (D-Bethel), Co-Chairmen of the Senate Finance Committee, and Representatives Bill Stoltze (R-Chugiak) and Mike Hawker (R-Anchorage), the Finance Committees are jointly working to quickly review the bill and thoroughly access its financial impact on Alaska.
At a minimum, Alaska appears to be eligible for federal funding for infrastructure, education, job training, energy efficiency, law enforcement, public safety, unemployment and public assistance programs.
"While we understand the urgency to help pull the nation out of its recession, Alaskans have a right to participate in the state's spending decisions and we encourage their involvement." wrote Stedman, Hoffman, Stoltze and Hawker.
There is a high interest in the legislation and the finance leaders stated in their letter they intend to bring the maximum amount of accountability and oversight into the process. Quoting the letter, Alaskans want to know exactly what funding the state is entitled to receive and how it will be spent.
The federal government has stipulated an unprecedented level of tracking and reporting of the economic stimulus money according to the finance leaders and they have implemented a new fund code for that purpose. Senators Stedman and Hoffman and Representatives Stoltze and Hawker are also committed in helping with the extensive federal tracking that will accompany the federal legislation, and made it clear that the legislature is prepared to play its role in approving new authority before spending any new federal dollars.
"In order to ensure full transparency of exactly how the state spends it share of the stimulus money, we expect the administration will introduce legislation requesting specific spending authority before expending any federal stimulus funds," wrote Stedman, Hoffman, Stoltze and Hawker.
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