Begich Supports Continuing Resolution Stopgap Measure Cements Air Force Decision to Not Move Eielson F16s in FY2013
In a bipartisan vote of 62-30, the U.S. Senate early this morning approved continued funding for federal agencies into next spring. U.S. Senator Mark Begich voted yes on the Continuing Resolution but said Congress can’t wait any longer to make tough decisions on reducing the staggering federal deficit.
“We need a smart, long-term approach to the federal budget, not more short-term fixes, ,” Begich said. “At the same time, I’m glad we’re giving some budget certainty to the federal agencies providing important public services throughout Alaska this fall and winter.
“I’m also very pleased the resolution includes clear language preventing any transfer of the F16 Aggressor Squadron from Eielson Air Force Base next year,” he said.
The CR was already passed by the House of Representatives. It echoes Begich’s language in the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which places a one-year moratorium on the relocation of the F16s due to incomplete data supporting the move. Today’s vote puts into law a commitment not to relocate jets that Begich secured this summer from former Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz.
The continuing resolution for FY13 is H.J.Res.117. It extends funding at roughly the current rate of operations and keeps government open for six months, through March 27, 2013. However, if Congress does not pass a comprehensive deficit-reduction bill before Jan. 2, 2013, deep automatic budget cuts will be triggered by last year’s Budget Control Act. Senator Begich has said repeatedly he believes Congress must come together after the elections, put the country first, and pass a long-term plan that begins with budget cuts. Along with substantial reductions in federal spending, he also believes deficit reduction requires tax reform that includes some new tax revenues and smart investments in education and infrastructure. Begich says all federal agencies will have to be part of the solution.
Besides the Eielson language, Begich pointed to other provisions in the CR affecting Alaska:
· NOAA satellites: The CR fails to provide a needed increase to keep NOAA’s critical weather satellites on track to prevent gaps in coverage. “I’m concerned that by not funding the needed increase in NOAA weather satellites, we’ll force further delays in the polar-orbiting weather satellites that are so important to the life and safety of Alaskans as well as our troops overseas,” Begich said.
· Transportation funding: Under the resolution, surface transportation programs will not get the inflation increases authorized under Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), the new surface transportation bill signed into law in July. This will result in approximately a one and a half percent reduction in funding for transportation programs, or approximately $500 million over the 6-month life of the CR. While not ideal, the impacts of the CR’s reduction on transportation will occur between October and March, which are considerably less busy for the construction industry in Alaska.
The CR also continues funding for the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund at last year’s level of $7.1 billion, including $6.4 billion designated as “disaster relief,’ pursuant to the Budget Control Act. The recent floods in Alaska highlight the need to fund disaster relief.
The resolution prevents disruption of essential government services and protects ongoing national security activities, veterans’ claims processing, wildfire suppression, and small business lending. The current pay freeze for federal employees is also extended.
It also includes a clean six-month extension of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program, which was set to expire at the end of this month. This guarantees that some 1.8 million families will be able to afford child care and other services as they seek jobs.