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Alaska lawmakers draft plan for federal aid money

JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska lawmakers have proposed spending about $700 million from a new federal aid package to help non-profit organizations, local governments and tourism-related organizations.

The Alaska House of Representatives unveiled the plan on Friday, differing from Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s broad outline last week to use the funds to aid businesses and infrastructure investments, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Last month, Congress passed the relief package, which included $1 billion in economic aid to Alaska. Lawmakers proposed saving the rest of the money for spending next year.

The plan includes substituting $455 million in federal aid with tax dollars, which would free up $230 million for the state's capital budget — used to fund construction and renovation projects — and $175 million for the Permanent Fund dividend.

The plan also includes allocating $80 million for local governments, $30 million for non-profit organizations, $30 million in grants to small businesses, $20 million for local economic development organizations to promote tourism in the state and more.

Senate President Peter Micciche, a Republican, said senators would prefer to reserve about half of the $1 billion for next year. Debates over the budget are expected to begin next week, taking over the final weeks of the Legislature's regular session.

The plan must be approved by the Senate before becoming law. Dunleavy could veto elements of the plan.

Issues many lawmakers saw heading into session as critical to address or settle, such as Alaska's long-running deficit and the future of the yearly oil check paid to residents from the state's oil-wealth fund, have been overshadowed. Some lawmakers previously said the influx of new federal money should not be seen as an excuse to delay tough fiscal decisions.

The Alaska Legislature is scheduled to adjourn May 19.

The Associated Press