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Begich Introduces Pay Freeze for Congress

Senate Budget Committee approves a “no pay raise” amendment

At a time when Alaska’s families are struggling to make ends meet and the economy is slowly recovering from recession, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich today successfully introduced a budget amendment that will freeze pay for members of Congress for 2011.

The amendment was passed by the Senate Budget Committee which voted to approve the fiscal year 2011 budget resolution drafted by the Democratic chairman of the committee, Sen. Kent Conrad.

“There is no reason members of Congress should get any kind of a pay increase this year,” said Begich, a member of the Senate Budget Committee.  “Our economy is fragile, Alaskans are working every day to keep or find a job, and this is not the time for us to bring home a bigger pay check.”

Begich’s budget amendment differs from a bill passed by the full Senate today which stops annual “automatic” pay raises for 2011. Begich also supported that legislation, but if his amendment is successful on the Senate floor, members won’t be able to vote a pay raise for themselves either.

While campaigning for the Senate in 2008, Begich pledged to not support pay raises for senators unless Alaskans receive a pay raise through an increase to the minimum wage. He also believes senators should have to vote individually on each raise, not benefit from an automatic increase or have it tied to other legislation.

Begich unsuccessfully introduced an amendment that would have set aside $30 billion of TARP money to be available to lend to small businesses. Begich supported an amendment from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to use all remaining money from the original Troubled Assets Relief Program to pay down the country’s deficit, but felt it was appropriate to set aside $30 billion to help small businesses get back on their feet.

“The small business community has suffered. They are the drivers of this economy and they will be the ones to bring this economy forward,” Begich said.

Begich pledged to continue to work with senators of both parties to try to find a way when the budget moves to the full Senate to provide loan or credit opportunities for small businesses. Several senators in the budget committee expressed support for his amendment.

The 2011 Senate Budget Resolution freezes non-security discretionary spending for three years and enforces those levels with spending caps. It also cuts discretionary spending by $4 billion below the President’s requested levels and cuts the deficit by $671 billion more than the President’s budget.

You can watch part of the budget committee hearing at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_X2sJpOFyA

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