By Libby Casey
President Obama’s message in last night’s State of the Union address of “more jobs” and incentives for small businesses struck a chord with Alaska’s Congressional delegation. The Commander-in-Chief also singled-out opening up new offshore areas to oil and gas development – a line met with standing applause by both Alaska’s senators.
Alaska’s Democratic Senator Mark Begich says the President hit the right tone in his speech – and touched on many of Begich’s own goals, including tax credits for college and education reform that includes focusing on math and science:
I’m telling you, if you look at what he talked about on education, it’s exactly what we campaigned on. I mean if you take our policy statements on small business, energy, education, and military, it’s almost a replica of what we’ve been hammering away on.
Begich particularly approves of the President’s call to eliminate all capital gains taxes on small business investment… and his proposal to take 30 Billion dollars of TARP money that Wall Street banks have paid back and send it to COMMUNITY banks for small business loans.
Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski agrees that the President managed to reach-out to the American people in his speech and connect over concerns about jobs and the economy. But she wants to hear more specifics about his small business plans and does NOT want to see TARP money reused – instead she wants it to help pay down the national debt.
Both Senators applauded the President’s energy items. Senator Begich says Obama prioritized energy development and innovation.
Those were important, and for Alaska, those were big scores. For him to say O-C-S, when I ran, people were saying over and over again, Mark Begich wins, President Obama wins, oil drilling in Alaska will be shut down. Well, Chuckhi Sea is moving forward, that’s why you see the company from Norway investing in it, Beaufort Sea moving forward, the President now mentions O-C-S, he recognizes the value of it in a long-term energy plan.
Murkowski says she was pleased to hear President Obama single out offshore drilling – and nuclear power. She also notes that he sounded like he’s not going to try and push a cap and trade bill through the Senate – something Murkowski says won’t likely happen.
I do think it was interesting how he phrased his ask of the Congress when it came to energy issues. I was listening very intently at that point in time and as I recall, he urged us to pass a comprehensive energy & climate bill, but there was no mention of cap and trade, there was no real sense of urgency on the climate issue itself.
Despite finding some common-ground with the President, Murkowski says she wanted to hear more about fighting terrorism.
When you look at how long the President spoke and the areas he chose to emphasize, there’s an awful lot of people in this country who are quite anxious about national security issues and the terrorism threat. And I didn’t get impression from my listen that he perhaps gave as much focus or attention on those areas.
Murkowski said she was disappointed to hear Obama ask Congress to resume talks over the Democratic-led health care bill.
But Senator Begich says he liked the President’s push for a more effective, bipartisan governing process – and the fact that he scolded Congress for not working together. Obama singled-out Republican holds on nominations, something Begich has been fighting.
Alaska Congressman Don Young did NOT attend the State of the Union – and told A-P-R-N he planned to watch it on T-V:
I will probably watch some of it, let’s put it that way. It depends on how well it goes. And I’ve only gone to two State of the Union addresses since I have been a congressman. Because I’m an old hunter. And when you have the President, etc… diplomatic corps, and everybody together under one roof, it always gives me great concern.
Young applauded the President’s call for a spending freeze on discretionary items – but said it doesn’t go nearly far enough.
And I’m arguing what he should’ve froze he didn’t do. And that’s foreign aid. And I’ll go even further than that – he should’ve cut back or froze the investments in Afghanistan.
Despite widespread Republican support for the war in Afghanistan, Young says he’s against what’s happening there now:
People keep in mind, Alexander the Great couldn’t conquer Afghanistan. That’s history. Russians tried 10 years, they couldn’t do it. Can we be of assistance? Maybe in Pakistan. But this is an area that’s gonna be undisciplined and not controlled by anyone, and that’s a tremendous amount of money.
Young says he’d like to the Administration instead seriously tackle the deficit – and boost the economy through HIS often-stated priorities of energy development, timber, mining, and hydro-electric projects.