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Sen. Begich Reacts to President’s Proposed Budget

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich released the following statement Feb. 1 after the release of the president's proposed Fiscal Year 2011 budget:

"President Obama inherited enormous challenges and is trying to attack them through next year's budget proposal by bringing down the breathtaking deficit while investing in the economy to create jobs. The President's budget will lower taxes for an estimated 300,000 families in Alaska and cuts taxes for small businesses.

"I also appreciate the President's investments in better education. We know our young people won't be able to compete for future jobs if they don't have a solid education and an affordable way to pay for it. Items such as $98 million for new funding in Pell Grants in Alaska and $40 million for state and local educational initiatives targeted at low-income areas throughout the state will mean real dollars for education."

The budget proposal includes a $10 million cut in the health facilities construction program of the Denali Commission, but the Commissions' level base funding of $11.9 million remains intact.

"I am pleased to see that under these tough economic times, the president keeps the base funding for the Denali Commission. I am disappointed, but it is not unexpected, to see earmarks for the Commission cut as they were last year. I look forward to working again with Sen. Murkowski to restore the funding, as we did last year."

Begich said another troubling area of the president's proposal is ending $36.5 billion in incentives for oil and gas companies.

"I recognize the president's goal of trying to promote a clean energy economy, but to do it all at once, on the backs of an industry critical to Alaska's economy, is a big concern. We saw a similar proposal last year, and were successful in stopping that action," Begich said.

Begich said he is also concerned about the president's proposed cut of $18 million to the US Department of Agriculture's High Energy Costs Grant Program, which would end a program that has been highly utilized in Alaska for low-interest loans, especially with Alaska having some of the highest energy costs in the country.

The President's Fiscal Year 2011 Department of Defense Budget provides for a base budget of $548.9 billion, which is a 3.4 percent increase over the 2010 enacted level. There is also an additional $159.3 billion for DOD's ongoing overseas operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Of the total:

·         $421.5 million for military construction at Alaska installations and significant investments in the overall Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) program deployed at Ft. Greely, Alaska.

·         $458 million in Ballistic Missile Defense Sensors part of which will fund initial and refined design for upgrades at the Early Warning Radar site at Clear AFB and operations and sustainment of the COBRA DANE radar at Shemya.

Additionally, the White House has announced a proposed $125 billion budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs, another major area of focus for Sen. Begich.

Of that amount, $5.2 billion will go to specialized care, strengthening the VA's availability to provide veterans the best possible care for Post-Traumatic Stress, Traumatic Brain Injury and other mental health conditions. The budget also increases collaboration between join DOD and VA programs targeting psychological health, increases research to develop new evidence-based approaches; and increases outreach to veterans.

"We know that mental health issues are some of the most daunting issues facing our veterans and the VA today," Begich said. "Keeping resources focused on this problem will continue to be a priority for me."

On the transportation front, the budget proposal contains funding for projects critical to Alaska including:

·         $182 million for the Essential Air Service (EAS) program.  EAS is vital to keeping Alaskans connected by providing regular subsidized air service to 45 communities in Alaska.

·         Extends SAFETEA-LU through March 2011.

  • $1.14 billion - a 32 percent increase from 2010 - for the Next Generation Air Transportation System, the FAA's effort to improve the efficiency, safety, and capacity of the aviation system through initiatives such as the transformation from a national ground-based radar surveillance system.
There are thousands of pages of back-up documents to the president's budget proposal. Begich and his staff will spend the next several days analyzing the impacts to Alaska.

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