Stimulus tensions rise between Palin, state GOP lawmakers

JUNEAU -- Tension is rising between Gov. Sarah Palin and state legislators over the federal economic stimulus money, with lawmakers saying there is a communications breakdown with the governor over what money the state should take.

Palin and top legislators blamed each other for the cancellation of a meeting they'd scheduled with one another Thursday to hash out the stimulus. Senate President Gary Stevens said the statement Palin sent to the press about what happened was "absolutely false, absolutely false."

"Someone should be brought to task on that," the Kodiak Republican said.

Palin responded that legislators knew she wasn't going be in Juneau for the meeting but was willing to participate by telephone.

"We were told then that they didn't care, that was fine with them, they were still going to cancel the meeting," the governor said. "It's kind of unfortunate because we do want to speak with them about the stimulus package and the strings attached to every dollar that we would be receiving."

The scrap comes as the governor and legislative leaders are increasingly at odds over the federal stimulus funds. Palin announced last week that she was not accepting nearly a third of the money. But leading legislators seem to want nearly all of it, with Anchorage Republican Rep. Mike Hawker saying they are finding very few strings attached to the money.

Legislative leaders said they need to know from Palin what portion of the stimulus that she would veto -- or simply refuse to administer -- if the Legislature accepts the federal money that she did not. Senate president Stevens said there's no point in lawmakers spending time analyzing the issues around funds that Palin plans to block anyway.

"We need better communications with her, that's all we're asking for ... It is really unfair for us not to know what might be off the table," Stevens said.

Palin said it's premature to talk about what she might decide to veto.

"It's hypothetical to talk about action that would be taken on a bill that of course hasn't reached our desk yet, it has not even been formulated yet," Palin said.

The House-Senate leadership meeting scheduled with Palin on Thursday was the first since she announced last week that she was not accepting stimulus funds. But it turned out Palin was in Anchorage on Thursday, naming her new attorney general and attending the memorial service for a Fort Richardson soldier recently killed in Afghanistan.

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