"If our state doesn't get its act together now and role up our sleeves we're going to lose opportunities for our schools, for energy production, job training, university financial aid, and we can't afford to do that," Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, said.
"The Legislature's job is to make sure that Alaskans benefit from these funds, that we get our share, and even a little bit more," Senate President Gary Stevens said. "We leave no money on the table."
But Stevens believes the governor is right to reject money with strings attached that would commit the state to spending money it might not have in the future.
Still, if Palin rejects money that the Legislature wants, Stevens says lawmakers have the ability to go around the governor.
"If there are things the governor chooses not to apply for, we have the opportunity to apply for those ourselves," he said.
Stevens and other legislative leaders say they hope it won't come to that, and Stevens said he wishes he knew more about the governor's position on the stimulus package.
"People are hungry for information and that's part of the problem right now," said Larry Persily, a legislative finance assistant. "It's not necessarily the state's fault."
Persily has been tasked by House Finance Chairman Mike Hawker to coordinate the House's efforts to stay on top of the stimulus program.
Persily said he thinks the Legislature and the Palin administration are working well together and that everyone is doing their best to make the most of the opportunity.
"It's a disjointed process in the state at this point in time, I think," Sen. Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla, said. "I think we can make it work. Will there be some train wrecks along the way? I hope not."
The governor says she plans to meet with legislative leaders later this week to bring them up to date on her administration's efforts thus far, and to decipher the federal bill.
The governor's budget director, Karen Rehfeld, said there are 800 pages to analyze, and she has asked each department to weigh in.
The governor has until April 3 to decide what money to ask for.
If the Legislature disagrees with the governor, both the Senate and House would have to pass a resolution to circumvent Palin, and with a 90-day session, that gives them until April 19 to do so.
But New York Sen. Charles Schumer says the stimulus program does not allow the governor to selectively adopt some components of the bill while rejecting others.
To allow such picking and choosing would, in effect, empower the governors with a line-item veto authority that President Obama himself did not possess at the time he signed the legislation.
Contact Rhonda McBride at firstname.lastname@example.org