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Alaska legislators contradict Palin, agree to Federal Funds for education

March 26, 2009

The Anchorage Daily News published a story yesterday detailing the decision by Alaska legislators to accept stimulus funding previously rejected by Governor Sarah Palin.

Senate Majority Leader Johnny Ellis agreed. “I would be surprised if we give up much or any of the federal money,” the Anchorage Democrat said.

Palin announced last week she was not accepting $288 million of the $930.7 million that the state is due in the federal stimulus. Palin aides have said in the days since that the governor did not reject any money, leading some state legislators to charge the governor with backpedaling as a result of furor over the announcement.

The biggest chunk of money at issue is about $170 million for education. School district officials are mad, and Anchorage Democratic Rep. Harry Crawford said he doesn’t expect legislators to withhold the money.

“I don’t see anybody getting in front of that train,” he said.

Senate President Gary Stevens, a Republican from Kodiak, said he’s especially interested in the money that would go for special education and schooling for disadvantaged children. Stevens said his meetings with the governor prior to her stimulus announcement had given him the impression she was going to go after more of the money and he was surprised to hear otherwise last week.

What I find particularly interesting is that Palin would have rejected money for education, especially sums earmarked for disadvantaged children. What conservative political point is she trying to make by denying funds to poor kids? Even the old school Newt Gingrich, contract-with-America set that hoped to abolish the Department of Education as an unacceptable Federal intrusion into local decision making wouldn’t have turned down federal funds to support special education. Just as troubling, though unsurprisingly predictable, Palin had her aides deny that she would reject the money only one week after she made a statement, well, rejecting the money. I don’t know if someone so ideologically rigid and politically clumsy had ever been so close to the Oval office and her continued presence in the political conversation would be amusing if there wasn’t such a sizable minority of the Republican party that still saw her as a legitimate possibility for their Presidential nomination in 2012.

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