Alaska reacts to bipartisan budget deal

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - As Thursday morning's budget agreement came after what for Alaskans, was a government shut down solved overnight, federal agencies in Alaska have come to see the budget gridlock in Washington, D.C. as business as usual.

“Its just something we’ve come to expect,” said Katherine Belcher, public information officer for the Denali National Park and Preserve.

Belcher added that her department was expecting lawmakers to approve the budget deal. “Last time this happened we informed all our employees and told some not come to work on Monday.”

“We were watching it very closely last night,” Belcher said Friday.

The bipartisan budget agreement was signed early Thursday morning, ending the brief government shutdown.

For National Parks across the nation, a shutdown, however short, means they are forced to close their doors until an agreement is made in Washington. However, essential employees - like the nation's only mushing patrol in Denali - must continue to work.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski highlighted Congress' “inability to fund the government.” She added that the fiscal gridlock in Washington is “damaging to our military and the institutions Alaskans rely upon every day.”

In a separate statement, Sen. Dan Sullivan, a vocal supporter of the state's military installations – including its missile defense assets - welcomed the 2.4 percent pay raise to troops, and its $80 billion funding increase to defense discretionary spending for Fiscal Year 2018.

“It also ensures the stationing of the F-35s at Eielson Air Force Base remains on track.” Sullivan wrote in a press release Thursday.

Despite frustrations, Murkowski believes the agreement is a sign that lawmakers can come together and prioritize national defense.

The budget agreement also updates policies for various health care programs by securing $7 billion, funds special diabetes programs, and injects $6 billion over two years for the fight against opioid addiction.

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