In the wake of President Obama’s signing of the economic stimulus package in Washington, D.C. last week, Alaska lawmakers continue to grapple with what it will mean to the state and just how much of the 789-billion-dollars Alaska can expect to see. On Tuesday, Kodiak’s State House Representative Alan Austerman discussed the issued, saying it was too soon to tell just how much funding Kodiak could expect to see.
Austerman estimated that about 800-million-dollars could make its way to Alaska and would go toward creating some 8,000 jobs and infrastructure improvements. Roughly 87-million is likely to go to Medicare, and unemployment payments are expected to increase, he said.
Austerman said the first department to make its comprehensive needs known was the department of transportation, regarding the building of roads and bridges and other infrastructure needs. But he expects to be hearing from others soon, and hopes to keep state spending of stimulus funds in check for the time being.
— (Stimulus 1 22 sec. "I think there’s going to be … heating up the economy.")
The federal package provides few provisions to states on how they should spend the money, Austerman said, but there are some guidelines written into the law to dictate what types of projects states can allocate the funds to.
— (Stimulus 2 54 sec. "It’s supposed to go … projects they’re talking about.")
Austerman, who is a member of the House finance committee, said he will be advocating not only for the best interests of Alaskans but for Kodiak, as discussion of stimulus spending continues. He said he’ll be looking at "shovel ready" projects for which to push funding. He also noted that the DOT is expected to receive about 175-million-dollars for funding of road projects across the state, but that more could come Alaska’s way, given the unequal distribution of funds to states thus far. He cited Illinois as an example of a state that may be receiving more than will be able to use.
— (Stimulus 3 48 sec. "According to the DOT officials … they’re on the list.")
Austerman said transportation and infrastructure represents only a small portion of the types of projects that will ultimately be funded by stimulus money, and that he’s taking a "wait and see" approach moving forward.
— (Stimulus 4 52 sec. "The total amount of dollars … they want to do there too.")
The state will receive benefits from the stimulus package over the next two-and-a-half years. Austerman said the Legislature will continue to make decisions on spending the funds in greater detail as more information and more precise numbers become available.