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Alaska congressional delegation urges budget compromise to protect federal funding

Rep. Don Young, Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan in Anchorage on May 30, 2017. (Marc Lester / ADN archive)

Alaska’s congressional delegation urged lawmakers and the governor to prioritize Alaskans and find a way through an unprecedented budget divide that threatens federal funding.

In separate statements, the three members of the delegation said they’re working to protect federal funds that are key to the Alaska economy.

The state’s lawmakers have yet to complete a capital budget amid a continued battle over Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s $444 million in vetoes to the state operating budget.

Alaska’s senior senator provided a statement Monday urging a cautionary approach to the cuts, at a time when some lawmakers still see hope of restoring funding eliminated by the vetoes.

“While budget reductions are needed, how these cuts are implemented is important too," Sen. Lisa Murkowski said in a prepared statement. "These are difficult decisions that require sober discussion. I urge all members of our Legislature to productively engage - together as Alaskans - with the governor and his team to quickly resolve the uncertainty that is facing so many. Alaskans deserve no less.”

Murkowski’s office said the senator is working with federal agencies to protect federal funds that could be jeopardized by the impasse in Alaska. That includes looking at funding timelines and alternate methods of delivering the money to the state, her office said.

In one scenario, the state could lose $1 billion in federal transportation construction aid if the capital budget isn’t approved by the end of the month.

Rep. Don Young said in a short statement that Alaskans are having much-needed conversations about the budget. He said an end to the stalemate is important.

“I’m hopeful that the governor and Legislature can move us forward,” Young said. “That’s in the best interest of the people of Alaska. When it comes to federal funding, Alaskans know that I’ve always put them first, and will continue to do so as their sole representative in Congress.”

Sen. Dan Sullivan’s office issued a short statement calling on Alaska politicians to find a way forward on the capital budget. As with Young’s statement, Sullivan’s office did not mention the budget cuts.

“Senator Sullivan is optimistic that the Legislature and the governor reach an agreement soon on funding the capital budget, to ensure that hard fought matching federal funds - like the hundreds of millions of infrastructure funding secured by the Alaska Congressional delegation - can be used for the benefit of all Alaskans,” his office said.

Former Alaska governors have also urged the state’s political leaders to cooperate and compromise.

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