Sen. Murkowski shares forecast

Posted: Tuesday, February 22, 2011

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski gave her take on the current climate in the capitol to the Kenai Peninsula School District Board of Education when she visited a work session Monday afternoon.

She was on the Kenai Peninsula Monday visiting Ninilchik and Soldotna schools as well as meeting with local government officials.

"I wish that I could give you more certainty as to where we are other than to let you know that the big budget debates will be beginning next week, and going on for probably the next several weeks after that as we determine the lay of the land," Murkowski told the school board in the borough building's meeting chambers.

The House of Representatives voted Saturday to cut federal spending by $61 billion through September, which has sparked controversy among policymakers. And some lawmakers have called for a shutdown to force the government to adopt a leaner budget.

"There's a lot of discussion on whether or not there will be a government shutdown. I think most of us agree a government shutdown is not an efficient way to do business," Murkowski said. "We're working to avoid that."

The biggest thing that could affect communities, she said, is the federal earmark ban.

Threatened by President Barak Obama in his state of the union address and instituted by Congress, the earmark ban is making politicians jobs difficult, the Republican senator said.

"Earmarks are not happening and that is a reality that we will deal with," she said. "It doesn't mean we won't be able to get funding specific to the communities ,but it means we'll be using different approaches."

"They're driving after a number right now and there's going to be plenty of time for debate and argument. But we're going to be seeing impact to our communities and the state of Alaska as a whole," she added.

The president's budget proposal for fiscal year 2012 has generated criticism from Republicans because it's adding additional spending when the federal government's deficit is $1.6 trillion.

"I think most recognize that we've got to figure out we reduce our spending, rein some things in," she said. "We're going to be arguing over budgets here for a considerable amount of time."

Murkowski also expressed her concerns over a more competitive federal funding model for education that could be a disadvantage to Alaska's diverse districts, as well as her perspective on how Alaska Permanent fund hurts the state's chances in terms of receiving federal monies.

School board president Joe Arness said Murkowski's update still left him with some doubts of what will happen in terms of the federal budget and what that could mean for the local government.

"I didn't hear any certainty of what's going to happen," he said. "I don't think she knows."

Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at brielle.schaeffer@peninsulaclarion.com



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