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Alaska’s congressional delegation responds to Obama’s jobs speech

Alaska Beat

In their requisite releases following President Obama’s jobs speech, Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s response was brutal, Rep. Don Young’s was pithy, and Sen. Mark Begich’s response was supportive, with reservations.

Murkowski may be a Republican, but a Republican not normally known to taking a boxer’s stance against Obama. She did just that tonight, however, in a withering critique of the speech jobs.

“Although the plan we heard tonight sounds a lot like a replay of his 2009 stimulus bill, even the President has now come to realize what Americans have known for some time, it simply didn’t work,” she wrote. “$800 billion in federal spending got us where we are today – 9.1% unemployment, stagnant economic growth and a $15 trillion national debt.  So while he avoids the word, he’s reheating the same failed ideas.”

And that was just the beginning. She went on to criticize his trade policies, his regulatory policies, and his tax proposal. (Find the full release below) Bottom line: Murkowski was not pleased.  

Begich’s release took on a rather circumspect tone. “While I don’t agree with every proposal, I was pleased to see his support for tax breaks for small businesses which hire new workers, cuts to payroll taxes for working Americans and investment in education,” he wrote. “If the President would green-light development projects in Alaska’s Arctic, which he could do with a directive from his office, we could create thousands of jobs in Alaska and across the country.” (Find the full release below). Bottom line: Begich was pleased, with reservations.

Rep. Don Young said that he was “relieved the President finally wants to address this country’s infrastructure needs.” However, he said, it’s overregulation that is really hurting growth. “If he is serious about cutting the red tape and creating jobs, he should stop preventing resource production in the Arctic and across America which would create jobs and grow our economy,” Young said.  (Find the full release below) Bottom line: Young’s release was the shortest of all three.

Sen. Mark Begich’s release in full:

America’s recovering economy requires swift and bold action and the President aggressively called on Congress to pass a detailed agenda to put our economy back on track. While I don’t agree with every proposal, I was pleased to see his support for tax breaks for small businesses which hire new workers, cuts to payroll taxes for working Americans and investment in education.

If the President would green-light development projects in Alaska’s Arctic, which he could do with a directive from his office, we could create thousands of jobs in Alaska and across the country. Just this week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said development in the Arctic could create more than 50,000 jobs in the coming years. That’s more jobs than the entire nation created throughout the month of August. The President should exercise more of his executive power this way to create jobs and get our economy growing.

I agree with the President that we must focus on improving our competitiveness as a nation. I support faster payments for businesses owners who contract with the government and I support a plan to help more people refinance their mortgages and stay in their homes.

I have long supported reforming our tax code, but we shouldn’t single out one industry for punitive tax treatment. We must address the whole system so it is fair and balanced across the board.

There are some who think we can have a narrow approach to fixing the economy with just reduced spending. I have long-supported a comprehensive plan that includes reducing the deficit, creating a fair and balanced tax code through tax reform, and investing in infrastructure, energy and education.

If we fail to dual-track job creation and deficit reduction, we risk cutting ourselves into a double-dip recession. I know Congress has the ability and the know-how to get this done and I hope my colleagues of both political parties are ready to demonstrate the political will to get it done.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s release in full:

Alaskans, I had hoped that tonight the President would hear the majority of Americans asking for solid, comprehensive solutions that can get bipartisan support – but tonight the President offered us nothing new.

President Obama spent a lot of time sharing his plan with the country, but there was one thing you didn’t hear: the word ‘stimulus.’  Although the plan we heard tonight sounds a lot like a replay of his 2009 stimulus bill, even the President has now come to realize what Americans have known for some time, it simply didn’t work. $800 billion in federal spending got us where we are today – 9.1% unemployment, stagnant economic growth and a $15 trillion national debt.  So while he avoids the word, he’s reheating the same failed ideas.

The President says he wants to improve roads and bridges. That’s called a Highway Bill, and Congress is already working to reauthorize that program because all of us recognize and support the need to continue improving our road and highway infrastructure. But even the President admitted in June that “shovel ready” projects where easier to talk about, than to find. We aren’t really creating new jobs by just talking about exiting programs Congress is already well down the road to approving.

The President wants free trade. I agree. He wants to see South Koreans driving Fords – but that ball is squarely in his court. By law, the Free Trade Agreements are negotiated by the President and then transmitted to Congress for approval. The White House has been sitting on them for over two years. Last year, Alaska exported $477 million worth of seafood, minerals and forest products to South Korea. A Free Trade Agreement with South Korea would bring even more to our state.

The President will give tax credits to businesses that hire people off unemployment. That does nothing to create a need for those workers. If you’re a restaurant owner on the Kenai, why would you hire a new waiter or cook if everyone is still saving money eating at home?

The President also wants to extend the 2% Social Security payroll tax holiday for employees for another year. I support efforts to put more money in the pockets of Americans during these difficult economic times. But why stop there? If we’re going to extend the payroll tax cut, we should also address the alternative minimum tax. The current exemption expires at the end of this year, and if we don’t extend it, many middle class families would see their taxes rise substantially. Additionally, an optional deduction for state and local sales taxes expires at the end of the year. If we don’t extend that, families have one less deduction they can take – and this is a particularly important one for our state. We also need to remember that the research and development tax credit and accelerated depreciation provisions are set to expire at the end of the year. Many businesses, who we rely on for jobs, would have to pay higher taxes if we don’t extend these provisions. If businesses are paying more in taxes, they have less to pay employees.

The President also says he wants to reduce the regulatory burden on small businesses, but the facts don’t support it. His administration’s regulatory agenda identifies over 200 new regulations that annually are expected to cost in excess of $100 million each. At the present time, six rules have been proposed to the public that each have an estimated annual cost in excess of $1.0 billion. These environmental, financial, labor and other federal regulatory burdens stifle the critical investments we need to grow the economy and to create jobs.

Rep. Don Young’s release in full:  

“Where was this speech two and half years and $800 billion ago? After a failed government stimulus plan, a horrible health care bill and numerous promises to create jobs, I am relieved the President finally wants to address this country’s infrastructure needs.  Unfortunately, it’s the President’s insistence on overregulation that is stopping economic growth in this country. If he is serious about cutting the red tape and creating jobs, he should stop preventing resource production in the Arctic and across America which would create jobs and grow our economy. I remain confident we can work together and create a job growth plan for the country because America’s future is far too important not to act.”