Friday March 8, 2013
I recently returned from participating in the ceremonial start of the 41st Annual Iditarod Sled Dog race, where few words can describe the sights and sounds of 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage. Thousands of Alaskans, young and old, filled the streets on the foggy March morning to catch a glimpse of the 65 mushers making their way north to Nome.
This Alaskan tradition is one of my favorite times of year to catch up with friends and listen to what Alaskans have on their minds. I will be following this year’s race closely, as I always do, and will keep all my colleagues in Washington up to date on who is leading our Last Great Race.
Taking in the sights and sounds of the Iditarod Ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage.
( to listen to the sounds of the Iditarod)
I joined Martin Buser in Anchorage at the ceremonial start of the 998 mile trek to Nome.
Verne and I couldn’t resist grabbing a reindeer sausage from “M.A.’s Gourmet Dogs” in Downtown Anchorage.
Josh Cadzow (Bib 55), Terri Cadzow and I stop for a quick picture.
Last Friday, March 1st, across-the-board federal spending cuts – also known as “sequestration"– went into effect. I have told Alaskans that this meat cleaver type approach – where budget cuts are indiscriminately made to federal spending, regardless of efficiency or need – is not the smart approach. While I firmly believe spending reductions are in order, I also believe it is important to give the Administration flexibility in how $85 billion of sequestration budget cuts are made in 2013.
The Administration has stated they lacked the flexibility and discretion to avoid making the truly painful cuts. So I voted to give the federal government more judgment when it came to spending cuts instead of the blunt, indiscriminate instrument of sequestration. I believe we need smart, more targeted, cuts to responsibly begin addressing our nation’s debt.
A more common-sense approach – like those we all make in our households – would eliminate unnecessary spending to bring down our national debt. The Administration has been very vocal on the threats of the cuts, but disappointingly silent when it comes to allowing for a more common sense amount of flexibility. This attempt to score empty political points has done nothing but scare Alaskans at home and Americans nationwide.
Sequestration is a technical-sounding word, but it boils down to automatic spending cuts to the tune of $1.2 trillion over ten years. There is no doubt that smarter, more strategic cuts must be made – but cuts are just one piece of the puzzle. We also need comprehensive pro-growth tax reform. In addition to that, America must also come to terms with the ballooning automatic federal spending increases we face and understand reforms are needed to important mandatory programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to keep them sustainable, as well.
I will continue to work on these issues here in Washington, D.C. to ensure that our nation is on a sustainable financial path towards the future.
Address to the Alaska State Legislature
The Alaska State Legislature held a joint session to listen to my annual legislative address in Juneau last month.
Last month, I had the opportunity to give my annual address to the Alaska State Legislature. Being back in Juneau in the company of old friends is something I look forward to every year. It’s a chance to update the state on all that is going on back in Washington, D.C, listen to their concerns, answer questions and take back their thoughts on the future of Alaska and our nation.
This year I discussed a number of issues currently frustrating Alaskans, whether it’s the intrusive overreach by the federal government or the wrong-headed approach being taken with indiscriminate spending cuts through sequestration.
I ended my address by posing a very serious request to the legislature. I asked for their help as we work on issues like the F-16s at Eielson Air Force Base, federal energy policy’s Alaskan impacts and the nation’s fiscal path. I asked that they work closely together with the Congressional Delegation and the Governor to recognize that our broader economy will not be healthy unless our local and regional economies are healthy.
To watch my entire speech to the legislature, click here.
Visit to the Alaska Brewing Company in Juneau
While I was in Juneau for the speech to the legislature, I had the unique opportunity to examine the innovative “Beer Powered Beer” energy efficiency system at the Alaskan Brewing Company. When I first heard about their innovative practices, I immediately wanted to take a look for myself as part of my continuing effort to gather information on the best “all of the above” energy practices to move our nation forward.
Accounting for over half of the brewery’s energy needs, the “Beer Powered Beer” system is the only one of its kind in the world. I spent time with the brewery’s staff and co-founder Geoff Larson as they explained the process of their spent grain biomass boiler, a technology developed out of pure necessity. This custom boiler is expected to reduce diesel fuel consumption by more than 65%, and they believe it will pay for itself in fuel savings within five years.
I toured the Alaskan Brewing Company in Juneau, Alaska.
( for a video of the tour and explanation of the spent grain biomass boiler process)
It was a tremendous experience to see this Alaskan company leading the way on a renewable energy technology. We have all seen in our state that traditional fuel sources can cost double, even triple what they do in the Lower 48 and we, as Alaskans, demand better. These innovative and resourceful ideas are created because they have to be and this is a shining example of that Alaskan ingenuity.
Alaskan Brewing Co-Founder Geoff Larson explains the spent grain boiler system to me on my recent visit. Others may want to take note of the “green” brewing process at the Alaskan Brewing Co.
Energy 20/20: Vision for America’s Energy Future
The Readers Digest condensed version of my Energy 20/20 plan is very simple: energy is good.
Over the past year my staff and I have worked extremely hard on a comprehensive energy proposal outlining new ways to think about and talk about energy policy. I introduced a 115-page energy blueprint that focuses on how energy can be viewed as a positive and how it can be used to help strengthen our economy. The plan is quite simple: Energy Is Good!
As Alaskans, we know all too well how high fuel costs, slowing production, and increased federal regulation can impact our way of life. Some of our communities in our state, in the interior and in the bush, are spending up to 47 percent of their budget on energy to keep warm and their lights on.
The blueprint, entitled “Energy 20/20: A Vision for America’s Energy Future,” provides 200 comprehensive energy recommendations that are intended to spark new and thoughtful discussions about energy production and innovation. To take a look at how bright our future can be if we produce resources and prioritize our innovation, .
I was given the opportunity to testify in front of a House Subcommittee about my ‘Energy 20/20’ Blueprint.
( to view my testimony to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee)
Veteran Spotlight on U.S. Army Veteran Hugh “Bud” Fate
I recently introduced my ninth “Veteran Spotlight” installment, highlighting the life and work of Hugh “Bud” Fate, a U.S. Army Veteran who was drafted during the Korean War and helped map the ALCAN Highway for military use.
Though he is an extremely modest man, Bud took the time to share his story – describing his role as an advisor for Army commanders in both the Arctic and Alaska. His story is a fascinating one, woven through the tapestry of Alaskan history. We owe it to our veterans like Bud Fate to honor them through sharing their stories, and we owe it to ourselves to learn from the high levels of patriotism, commitment and service they demonstrate for us.
My Veteran Spotlight is part of a monthly project in conjunction with the Library"of Congress’ Veterans History Project. If you have a family member or a member of your family you’re proud of with a military story we can all learn from, please send me an e-mail at xxx.
Hugh “Bud” Fate, U.S. Army Veteran, Former Alaskan Legislator.
( for excerpt of Fate talking about being drafted, CLICK"HERE for the extended interview)
Emergency Access Road to King Cove
Alaskans were dealt a new low in federal overreach by the Department of Interior last month. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided that a few miles of habitat within a vast wildlife refuge were more important than the lives and well being of the villagers of King Cove, by deciding against a congressionally-approved land exchange for a 10 mile, single-lane, gravel road for non-commercial emergency travel between King Cove and the all-weather airport of Cold Bay. This road is not only needed to provide for the safety of the people that live there, but to prevent future accidents and save lives.
I’ve had the opportunity to speak out against the ruling since the decision was made. I’ve sent letters, met with public officials, and continue to use every tool in my toolbox to express my deep concerns for the federal government’s prioritization of conservation over Alaskans’ health and safety.
Last week I met with the residents of King Cove in advance of their meeting with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. After six trips to Washington, D.C., members of the King Cove community finally got the chance to sit with Secretary Salazar, look him in the eye, and personally show and explain the importance of the road. While there has been no word on the policy results of that meeting, the residents of King Cove were encouraged that they had been heard.
The Administration can still right their wrong. Secretary Salazar still has the ability to make a “public interest” determination and allow for the road and I am going to make sure that everyone involved understands the gravity of their mistake. I invite you to take a look at my most recent speech on the Senate floor explaining to my colleagues just how negatively this decision impacts the people of King Cove.
Following a meeting between King Cove residents and Secretary of Interior Salazar, I spoke on the Senate floor to update my colleagues on the progress of road access through Izembek.
( on the image to view my floor speech)
Representatives of King Cove and I shared their concerns with the media last week in Washington, D.C.
King Cove residents, Senator Begich and I pose for a picture during their visit to Washington, D.C.
Summer Internships and Page Opportunities in Washington, D.C.
My first session of high school interns last summer and I meet to discuss their internship.
Each summer, I host 20 Alaskan high school graduates in a pair of month-long sessions to intern in my Washington, D.C. office. This internship is a unique opportunity for students to learn about the workings of the United States Senate, while gaining valuable experience in a professional office and living in one of America’s most historic cities.
During their time in Washington, D.C., interns spend time attending various meetings and tours, assisting staff, and focusing on federal legislation that affects Alaska. I will also be selecting two college students to oversee the high school program and coordinate various planned events, as well as to supervise and provide peer support for the interns.
It is important to me to have a diverse pool of applicants from all over the state. I hope that you will share this information with any qualified candidate and direct them to visit my on my website for more information.
The deadline for all internship applications is this coming Thursday, March 14, 2013. Should you have any questions regarding the internship program, please visit my website or contact Madison Dapcevich in my Washington, D.C. office at 202-224-6665.
I am also accepting applications for my selection to the Senate Page program in Washington, D.C., which provides high school juniors the opportunity to play an active role in the day to day operations of the Senate. There are four page program sessions, consisting of two academic semesters and two summer sessions.
If you would like more information, please visit the section on my website. The summer session application deadline is Friday, April 5, 2013.
Photos From my Recent Visits to Alaska
Auke Bay Elementary School in Juneau is getting a complete overhaul after more than 40 years. I recently visited the construction site to see how the use of ground source heating systems are being used to greatly lower costs and reduce emissions.
I met with JROTC cadets Thomas Antal and Grant Ebenal while visiting West Valley High School. Their program is the only US Marine Corps JROTC program in Alaska.
Students in the Community AfterSchool program at Joy Elementary School in Fairbanks presented me with a “You Rule for AfterSchool” ruler and flowers during my recent visit. They were taking part in academic and enrichment activities, and were extremely eager to show off the beautiful mittens and hats they’ve been learning to sew.