Alaska Democrats on Monday accused Republican Gov. Sarah Palin of abdicating her duties with her decision to travel outside the state this week as the Legislature's session winds down.
"She is putting her national political ambitions ahead of the needs of Alaska," Alaska Democrat Party Chairwoman Patti Higgins said at a news conference.
Palin, the former GOP vice presidential candidate, has not ruled out a presidential run in 2012. She also has not indicated whether she will seek re-election next year.
The Legislature must conclude its work by Sunday, with the federal stimulus package and the capital budget yet to be approved. Palin is scheduled to leave the state this week to attend a Right to Life fundraiser Thursday in Indiana.
"Where is Sarah Palin? She is going to be halfway across the country, she's at a Right to Life fundraiser and another event," Higgins said. "We need a full-time governor who is thinking about our issues all the time, who is working and negotiating with the legislators and getting the job done we need done."
According to the governor's office, Palin personally informed legislative leaders of the trip and none expressed concern over it.
"During the final week of session, legislators rarely want governors around stirring things up," Palin's chief of staff, Mike Nizich, said in a prepared statement. "We did not anticipate that the governor's political opponents would want their hands held in the final hours of the session."
"It is nothing more than a politically charged shot in the dark," he said. "We view the legislative session as a very serious state issue. This isn't politics for us; this is Alaska's future."
Palin and lawmakers have been at odds over whether to accept $930 million in federal stimulus funding. Palin has contended the funding would create a burden on the state down the road by creating programs the state would have to fund once the federal money runs dry.
Lawmakers also have to pass the capital budget before Sunday. Palin had submitted a $2.2 billion budget, but lawmakers last week lopped $500 million off her proposal.
On Thursday night, Palin will be attending the Vanderburgh County Right to Life dinner in Evansville, Ind., and a breakfast the following day with members of SMILE, a nonprofit support organization for people with family members who have Down syndrome.
Palin's son, Trig, was born with the condition, which is caused by an extra chromosome and characterized by mental retardation of varying degrees. He turns 1 on Saturday.