LISTENING – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski listens in the audience as she's introduced during Wednesday's Sitka Chamber of Commerce meeting at Harrigan Centennial Hall. Murkowski and members of her staff spent the day in Sitka visiting with constituents. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Trump’s Budget Plan Slashes Denali Fund

    ANCHORAGE (AP) — The federal budget proposal by the Trump administration would cut an Alaska program that has helped improve farms, docks and other rural infrastructure.
    The $4.8 trillion budget plan released Monday called for the shutdown of the Denali Commission and two other agencies like it in the continental U.S.
    The Denali Commission is an independent federal agency that works with tribal, federal, state, and local partners to improve rural infrastructure and economic development. The commission has invested more than $1.2 billion in Alaska communities, according to its website.
    The proposed budget for fiscal year 2021 provided $7 million for the “orderly closure” of the commission, decreasing its funding by $10 million.
    A White House budget document pointed to the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend as evidence the state is wealthy enough that it does not need the federally supported commission.
    The Trump administration said most of the commission’s work duplicates other federal programs, asserting the commission had not proven its effectiveness at boosting overall economic conditions in targeted areas.
    “(The) rationale for a unique and additional federal subsidy to Alaska is difficult to justify given that the state of Alaska’s oil revenues allow it to pay an annual dividend ($1,600 in 2018) to each of its residents,” the budget document said.
    The president’s annual budget proposal is not binding and must be approved by Congress, which is likely to make significant changes.
    The administration proposed eliminating the Denali Commission in previous years and Alaska’s congressional delegation vowed again Monday to protect the Anchorage-based commission.
    Jason Hoke, the commission’s federal co-chair, said the agency is critical to the state and federal government.
    “I hope it does (survive) so I can prove to the president how valuable an asset he has,” Hoke said.   

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