Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin announced Thursday that she'll be accepting $514.1 million in stimulus funds for her state -- in other words, only about 55 percent of what was allocated for Alaska. The other 45 percent will be left on the table for now, although the state legislature can move to accept it anyway under a provision in the stimulus bill.
Palin had asked for about $260 million last month. Her latest request totals $252.5 million, according to a statement released by her office, which includes "$20.7 million for education and job training, $68.6 million for water and sewer projects and storage tank replacements, $3.0 million for the Alaska Vocational Training Center, $2.5 million for Fire Fuels and Forest Management, $39.6 million for public housing projects through the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, and $116.0 million for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Research Vessel."
The governor is turning down $160 million for education, the Anchorage Daily News reports, along with $9 million for Health and Social Services, $7 million for Public Safety and $17 million in Department of Labor funding that would pay for things like unemployment services and vocational rehabilitation services -- that is, employment assistance for people with disabilities.
Among other reasons she gave for rejecting the money, Palin said in her statement that she doesn't want to "dig ourselves a deeper hole in two years when these federal funds are gone." There could, of course, be a political motive at work as well. The stimulus was unpopular with Republicans, and two other governors seen as potential rivals for Palin come the 2012 GOP presidential primaries -- South Carolina's Mark Sanford and Louisiana's Bobby Jindal -- have already announced decisions similar to the one Palin made today. (Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who's facing the prospect of a primary challenge, has also rejected some funding.)
At times, during opening remarks at a press conference she held Thursday, Palin sounded like she was speaking not just to Alaskans but to Republican primary voters throughout the country.
"In reviewing what the feds call a stimulus package, what we have done is asked these questions: What is in the best interest of Alaskans and will we chart our own course or will Washington engineer it for us? Do all the federal dollars in this package really create new jobs or do they just spend us into a massive trillion dollar deficit?" the governor said.