FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Appropriations for the Denali Commission to aid rural Alaska, cut in a House spending bill last month, reappeared bigger than ever when the Senate Appropriations Committee unveiled its version last week.
The Senate committee suggested spending $40 million on the commission, which Sen. Ted Stevens created in 1998 to pay for development work in Alaska's rural communities.
President Bush has asked for $30 million.
The Senate added language in its report on the bill asking that $5 million of the total go toward improving ''basic infrastructure and community facilities for community residents without running water or sewer systems.''
To date, the commission has focused on replacing fuel storage tanks and building health clinics, leaving other agencies to deal with the water and sewer work.
Stevens, speaking Friday in Washington with reporters, said he thought he could defend his number in a conference committee with the House. The subcommittee chairman in the House is new and doesn't yet understand the need in Alaska, Stevens said.
The money will ''accelerate infrastructure'' development in rural Alaska, Stevens said. The commission is an effective tool to do that, he said, because it is required by law to spend no more than 5 percent of its budget on administrative expenses. That compares with up to 40 percent taken when work is routed through federal agencies, he said.
Commission co-chairmen are former Stevens aide Jeffrey Staser and Gov. Tony Knowles.
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