Here's an op-ed column from the governor to be published in print over the weekend:
“Shovel ready or digging a hole?”
By Gov. Sarah Palin
Some question my decision to accept job-ready stimulus funds, while leaving on the table for discussion other funds that grow government. Washington dollars are tempting, but we must consider whether they create sustainability, help develop our resources, reduce dependency on Washington, and all without mortgaging our kids’ futures.
Under federal law, I must certify that every stimulus dollar will create new jobs and stimulate the economy. I take that charge seriously. Accordingly, I’ve requested $514.4 million for capital projects that legitimately create new private sector jobs. Shovel-ready projects are certifiable because they put people to work and grow Alaska’s private-sector economy.
Unfortunately, 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.
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. That's why public discussion on budget increases must happen through open, transparent legislative hearings so everyone is aware of the cost.
I am deeply committed to quality public education, so I appreciate questions concerning my $20 million dollar request for certifiable funds. Regarding other available funds, I have sought public discussion on school district spending plans. Alaska’s children are my priority, as proven by my unprecedented increases to K-12 funding, including intensive needs programs, which we currently fund at historic levels.
I moved the education discussion to the legislative arena because the public, lawmakers, and our schools must consider what will happen in 24 months. The districts should present spending plans that don’t dig huge fiscal holes when temporary federal funds disappear. Will they wisely and prudently fund training for existing positions, or just create new positions, leaving Alaskans to foot the increased bills? When one-time funding ends, will they lay-off all those new teachers? Are Alaskans willing to shoulder the expanding programs in the education bucket, including questionable priorities, like proposed increases to the National Endowment for the Arts? Alaskans must have confidence the additional funds will produce actual results for our children and not simply increase bureaucracy. Remember, these dollars aren’t “replacement dollars,” they are “additional dollars,” and obviously increase budgets.
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.
Some, enticed with as much Washington money as possible, assume this is free money. It is not. America is $11 trillion in debt. They also may fail to consider the level of federal intrusion. For example, Alaska’s communities would have to adopt building energy codes that compliment the most recent International Codes. These standards should be locally determined, not federally mandated. And, if we take additional unemployment compensation funds, Alaska would have to extend eligibility guidelines. This federal involvement locks us into government dependency for longer periods. Alaskans must read the fine print on these federal mandates, because certain allocations also require state-matching funds.
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.