Alaska legislators say they'll take stimulus funds Palin rejected

JUNEAU -- Top Alaska legislators said Tuesday they're likely to accept at least most of the federal economic stimulus money that Gov. Sarah Palin did not.

"I think at the end of the day we will end up taking most of the funds," said Anchorage Republican Rep. Mike Hawker, who is leading the House effort on the stimulus as co-chairman of the finance committee.

Senate Majority Leader Johnny Ellis agreed. "I would be surprised if we give up much or any of the federal money," the Anchorage Democrat said.

Palin announced last week she was not accepting $288 million of the $930.7 million that the state is due in the federal stimulus. Palin aides have said in the days since that the governor did not reject any money, leading some state legislators to charge the governor with backpedaling as a result of furor over the announcement.

The biggest chunk of money at issue is about $170 million for education. School district officials are mad, and Anchorage Democratic Rep. Harry Crawford said he doesn't expect legislators to withhold the money.

"I don't see anybody getting in front of that train," he said.

Senate President Gary Stevens, a Republican from Kodiak, said he's especially interested in the money that would go for special education and schooling for disadvantaged children. Stevens said his meetings with the governor prior to her stimulus announcement had given him the impression she was going to go after more of the money and he was surprised to hear otherwise last week.

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