Alaska's capital budget is full of local projects because many local governments rely on state funding to meet basic needs. Most of Alaska is owned by the federal government, and only 25 municipalities levy a property tax, according to the state tax assessor's office. The capital budget, therefore, is a grab bag of projects requested by communities through their state lawmakers.
Because 90% of the state's revenue comes from the oil and gas industry, Alaska has been flush with cash in recent years. State coffers grew fatter still when Palin, with help from Democrats in the Legislature, increased taxes this year by billions on the energy industry.
The Alaska government tends to spend more in good times, said Greg Erickson, an economic consultant in the state capital.
In a newsletter, Democratic Rep. Mike Doogan compared the 2008 budget process to a feeding frenzy by piranhas.
"The legislature is chewing through the financial bonanza brought by higher oil taxes and higher oil prices at a prodigious rate," he said.
Like the Washington earmark process McCain and Palin decry, the Alaska budgeting process is rife with politics and lobbying.
"Local folks generally get their projects by gaining influence with their representatives and their governor and getting it included in the capital budget," Erickson said. "The bigger communities hire well-paid lobbyists."