The outlook for federal funding of programs like public radio and Big Brothers Big Sisters isn’t good, U.S. Sen Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said in an interview during her recent visit here.
“It’s tough. The reality is with earmarks being disallowed, the funding (former Sen. Ted) Stevens got, it’s not possible to get that,” Murkowski said.
Without earmarks, it’s difficult for Alaska, with its relatively small population, to compete for pots of federal money, she said. Further, any expenditure viewed as extraneous will be targeted, including public radio, she said.
“We use public radio in a very different manner than they do in the Lower 48. It will be a fight. Gear up,” Murkowski said.
Murkowski said there’s a proposal to continue “secure schools funding,” a federal outlay that until this year boosted the local school budget about $400,000. That bill would extend the program four years, but see annual, 5 percent reductions.
“It allows for a phase-out process while we find a long-term solution,” she said. A political problem is the program benefits only communities in the western United States.
Murkowski also criticized excessive government regulation, saying a new emissions law that will require ships to burn low-sulfur fuel could increase the cost of goods coming to Alaska as much as 25 percent.
By 2015, the percentage could raise as much as 50 percent. The regulations also could add $100 to the cost of a seven-day cruise and cost the state up to one million visitors, she said. “What this means to our economy is significant.”
(Haines Borough Mayor Stephanie Scott told the borough assembly this week that she received information that freight shippers here already use ultra-low-sulfur fuel and that the legislation would not affect the price of goods arriving by barge here.)
Murkowski said changes were coming to entitlement programs like Medicare and that there was “no way to avoid” cuts in discretionary spending.
Responding to a question about health care, Murkowski said it seems to be the one most frequently asked. “We still have a system that has failed to meet the expectations of most of the people in the country.”