News From Senator Begich; February 14, 2011: Getting Tough on the Deficit and Debt
February 16, 2011
Telephone Town Hall Join Sen. Begich for a telephone town hall
Alaskans join Sen. Begich for a question and answer forum
5:00 p.m. (Alaska)
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February 18, 2011
Anchorage ASYMCA Salute to the Military
Anchorage Sheraton Hotel
6:45 p.m. (Alaska)
February 19, 2011
Anchorage United Way's Walk for Warmth
Dena'ina Civic and
10:00 a.m. (Alaska)
February 20, 2011
Anchorage African American Educational Summit
Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church
5:30 p.m. (Alaska)
February 21, 2011
Anchorage Alaska Society for Technology in Education: Technology Conference
Hotel Captain Cook
8:30 a.m. (Alaska)
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February 14, 2011 Getting Tough on the Deficit and Debt With the release of the President's budget proposal this morning, I am working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass a common sense budget that eliminates waste without harming much-needed programs that create jobs and grow our economy. Just like families who have been forced to make tough choices, the federal government must live within its means and crack down on wasteful spending. You can bet that I will be on the front lines of enacting real fiscal discipline, but will also make sure that Alaska's small businesses and programs that have helped our state's economy fare better than most in these tough times do not become political bait for others engaging in reckless cuts and political theater.
We also hope to finish the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration this week. I have been working to fight back a proposal to eliminate the Essential Air Service (EAS) program which supplies much-needed subsidies to 44 communities across Alaska. This proposal puts dozens of Alaska communities at risk as EAS supports commercial air service which brings in goods, mail and medical supplies. Today I'll be speaking on the Senate floor to reinforce the importance of this critical program which connects Alaskans living in rural communities with the rest of the world.
I'm looking forward to heading home to Alaska for the President's Day weekend. I will be meeting with a number of groups including the Alaska Society for Technology in Education Convention and hosting a roundtable with several non-profits as we discuss funding challenges for the future and how we can find creative ways to fund important programs and projects.
Senator Mark Begich
Addressing the Debt and Deficit
Sen. Begich hosted fellow Senators, economists, economic policy experts and small business leaders, including Alaskans, for a discussion on the need to address the deficit and debt as we continue to build the economy. This meeting was Sen. Begich's first as Chairman of the U.S. Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee.
Defending Rural Alaska Air Service
Calling aviation the lifeblood of Alaska, Sen. Begich spoke on the Senate floor about the importance of the Essential Air Service program, which supports air service to 44 rural Alaska communities. The program is under fire by an amendment from Sen. McCain (R - AZ) which would kill Alaska jobs, threaten the ability of some communities to get timely medical services, create higher grocery prices and slow mail delivery by ending the program.
Begich Criticizes EPA for Dragging Feet and Costing Alaska Jobs, Investment Sen. Begich was disappointed last week after Shell announced it would have to forego a 2011 drilling program in Alaska due to uncertainty of permitting from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). "I put the blame for this squarely on the EPA and the Obama Administration who have taken virtually every opportunity to block responsible development of Alaska's resources. Their foot-dragging means the loss another exploration season in Alaska, the loss of nearly 800 direct jobs and many more indirect jobs. That doesn't count the multi-millions of dollars in contracting that won't happen either at a time when our economy needs the investment," Begich said. "Shell has been working diligently for five years and has invested billions of dollars to meet the regulatory and permitting requirements of the federal agencies. It is shameful to see another season lost." Begich has had numerous discussions with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson about Shell's plans for the Arctic and says he will continue to work with the agency so Shell can get the green light for exploration in 2012.
Visiting with Gov. Tony Knowles
Sen. Begich recently had a chance to catch-up with long-time friend, Governor Tony Knowles.
Efforts to End Oil & Gas Subsidies Short-Sighted Sen. Begich has repeatedly said he will fight efforts by some Senate Democrats to end incentives for domestic energy production. Begich is responding to a letter sent by several Senate Democratic senators to House Speaker John Boehner calling for ending subsidies and tax breaks for oil companies. "While I recognize the need to focus on reducing the deficit, eliminating incentives for energy companies to the tune of $30 billion threatens our energy and national security. It would cost thousands of jobs in Alaska and across the country," Begich said. "Energy companies are among the businesses investing and creating jobs at a time when our country needs both. I will fight any measure that ends these incentives."
Kivgiq in Barrow
Sen. Begich's rural director, Tiffany Zulkosky, attended Kivgiq in Barrow. Watch a dance performance from the festival which had a theme of "Family and Love."
Senator Teams with Republican to Rescind "Orphaned Earmarks" Sen. Begich is co-sponsoring legislation with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) to rescind funds for so-called orphaned earmarks. The bill would rescind earmarks that remain 90 percent or more unused nine years after being appropriated, with the possibility of holding funds one more year for earmarks the agency head believes will be funded within the following 12 months. The total savings of the Coburn-Begich bill could exceed $500 million. "We have to leave no stone unturned as we work to reduce the deficit," Begich said. "As we focus on reducing spending, we can take easy steps like rescinding the money for unspent earmarks. If an earmark hasn't been claimed in nearly a decade, it's unlikely it ever will be. By essentially passing a 'Use it or Lose it' strategy, we can save roughly $500 million. That's not chump change." While Begich has said he does not support an earmark ban in the Senate, he does support rescinding those that have gone unclaimed for a decade or longer.
2011 Alaska Cherry Blossom Princess
Sen. Begich selected Grace Abbott to represent Alaska at the annual Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC. From Anchorage, Grace is a sophomore at George Washington University in Washington D.C.
Begich Joins Senate in Repeal of 1099 Provision of Health Care Law After working on the issue for several months at the request of Alaska's small business community, Sen. Begich joined a majority of his colleagues last week in voting to repeal a burdensome recordkeeping requirement for small businesses. Commonly called the "1099 provision" the regulation, passed as part of health reform, would require small business owners for file an IRS form 1099 each time they make a purchase of $600 or more from a vendor. "This is great news for Alaska's small businesses and businesses across the country as we move forward on getting rid of this unnecessary paperwork burden," Begich said. "Small businesses need to focus on job creation and expansion, and this is a hardship they just don't need." The 1099 repeal was approved by a vote of 81-17 as an amendment to the FAA Reauthorization bill currently being considered by the Senate.