• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
3m 40s

Begich addresses state lawmakers

By Rhonda McBride 9:39 PM March 3, 2014

Begich’s focus on education takes lawmakers by surprise

JUNEAU – Sen. Mark Begich downplayed partisanship during his sixth annual address to the state Legislature Monday.

He talked of the strong partnerships he has with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Congressman Don Young and Republican members of the Alaska delegation.

Begich also praised lawmakers for their help in winning money for federal programs — as well as sparing them from the budget ax. He also emphasized his ability to cross party lines to do what’s best for Alaska.

“For example I support a bill with Sen. Rand Paul on auditing the feds,” Begich said. “I’m the only Democrat on that bill, as I learned from my majority leader. It was a good conversation. I explained I’m from Alaska. He got it.”

Begich also said he’s also co-sponsoring a constitutional amendment for a balanced federal budget.

Many lawmakers had expected Begich to spend more time addressing a chronic issue in the Legislature  — what lawmakers claim are instances of federal overreach, in which the federal government usurps state authority.

The issue came to the forefront Friday when the Environmental Protection Agency put the state on notice that it may eventually block the Pebble Mine project to protect salmon in the Bristol Bay watershed.

The mine is on state land, and the EPA’s decision comes even before the state’s permitting process has begun.

Although Begich briefly touched on federal overreach, he didn’t mention the EPA decision at all in his speech — and lawmakers didn’t bring it up either during the Q&A period following Begich’s address.

Reporters did raise the issue at a news conference. Begich said he doesn’t think the EPA’s action would affect other Alaska mining projects. He also said he doesn’t believe this is a case of federal overreach at this point because the EPA is acting within the confines of the law.

What surprised lawmakers was Begich’s focus on education.

“To be blunt, I don’t agree with what’s happened in this building on education funding in recent years,” Begich said.

He compared it to building a fire in a woodstove but refusing to add enough wood.

“I know some of you will say there’s been enough wood for the fire,” Begich said.

Begich said the real question is whether the funding has kept pace with the ability of schools to do their jobs.

Begich also said he opposed a constitutional amendment that would allow public money to be used to subsidize the costs of students enrolled in private schools.

“I believe strongly we should never amend the Alaska Constitution as a fix for education,” Begich told lawmakers. “Public dollars are for public education. Period.”

Begich’s son, Jacob, a sixth grader, attends a private school in Washington, D.C. Begich said this doesn’t change his feelings about spending state money on private schools.

“I’m not asking for public money to pay for Jacob’s school. That’s the difference. OK. I’m paying for it,” said Begich, who also noted that prior to his family’s move to Washington, D.C., his son attended public school.

Begich said the state needs to make sure young Alaskans are prepared to make the most of the opportunities ahead in the 21st century economy.

Sen. Anna Fairclough, a Republican from Eagle River, told Begich cutbacks in federal funding are part of the problem and the Anchorage School District lost $45 million in federal money.

Some Republicans questioned Begich’s focus on state education funding.

“I thought it was fascinating,” said Sen. Mike Dunleavy, a Wasilla Republican who also serves on the Senate Education Committee. “That’s our job, and in the next breath, he’s talking about the battle over federal overreach.”

Rep. Geran Tarr, an Anchorage Democrat and educator, said she had no problems with Begich’s discussion of state education funding.

“We heard Senator Murkowski call for paying teachers more and loan forgiveness,” Tarr said. “I think we can look to both of them as experienced policymakers and good ideas can come from anywhere.”

But late in the afternoon, House Speaker Mike Chenault slammed Begich in a press release for what he called a “Beltway-style” speech.

In the statement, Chenault said, “Instead, what Alaskans heard today was more spin from Sen. Begich, and few solutions.”

Latest Stories

  • Wash. man charged with murdering, stealing from Ketchikan doctor

    by Chris Klint on Jul 21, 14:10

    A Washington man is accused of murdering a Ketchikan doctor at his home earlier this year, after local police say he transferred large sums of cash from the victim’s bank accounts and tried to send three shipping containers of goods from the home Outside. Jordan Joplin, 32, was indicted Friday by a Ketchikan grand jury […]

  • Fashion Friday: summer trends

    by Daybreak Staff on Jul 21, 12:42

    For fashion, keep it simple this summer. Experts at the 5th Avenue Mall say the trend this year for men is lighter, natural colors with subtle prints. For women, it’s easy elegance; think floral prints, ruffles and slip-on shoes. Watch the video above for some outfit ideas and summer looks.

  • Man gets 25-year sentence in 2014 Anchorage sexual assault

    by KTVA Web Staff on Jul 21, 12:08

    An Anchorage man was sentenced Thursday to 30 years in prison with five years suspended, for a violent sexual assault against a woman more than two years ago. Superior Court Judge Kevin Saxby handed down 31-year-old Asad Nur’s sentence on Thursday, according to a statement from Anchorage District Attorney Clint Campion’s office. An Anchorage jury […]

  • DayBreak

    Daybreak Adopt-A-Pet: July 21, 2017

    by Daybreak Staff on Jul 21, 12:00

    From Anchorage Animal Care and Control: Your next adventure buddy awaits: This week is going to the dogs. If you’re looking for an energetic dog to be your new companion then one of these could be your match. Head down to the shelter to meet Snoopy, Oxford, Nala or Bruce who are all looking for […]

  • DayBreak

    Mic Check in the Morning: The Super Saturated Sugar Strings

    by Daybreak Staff on Jul 21, 10:51

    The Super Saturated Sugar Strings are releasing their new album, “All Their Many Miles,” and are inviting Alaska to help them celebrate. The party starts at 7 p.m. July 27 at the 49th State Brewing Company on 3rd Avenue in Downtown Anchorage. Before that, the group will play at the University of Alaska Anchorage’s GooseFest […]

  • This weekend in Southcentral Alaska

    by KTVA Web Staff on Jul 21, 10:45

    Cardboard City When: 5 p.m. July 21 to 8 a.m. July 22 Location: Alaska State Fairgrounds, green entrance Price: $50 per person Spend the night in a cardboard box and raise money to end homelessness Mat-Su Fiber Festival When: July 22 and 23 Location: Alaska State Fairgrounds All-ages Dog Jog When: July 22, 9 a.m. […]

  • Sean Spicer resigns as White House press secretary

    by CBS News on Jul 21, 9:07

    White House press secretary Sean Spicer has resigned, CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett has confirmed. Spicer resigned Friday morning, shortly after President Trump selected Anthony Scaramucci as communications director. Scaramucci’s hiring was a factor in his resignation, as was Spicer’s diminishing role in the White House, Garrett reports. A source with direct […]

  • Suspect’s struggle over gun with Anchorage police leads to attempted-murder charges

    by Chris Klint on Jul 21, 8:51

    A man who Anchorage police say fired a gun during an altercation with two officers earlier this week has been arrested on a series of charges, including attempted murder. Court records show Pagopago Beefcake Lelilio, 29, also facing seven other counts of assault, weapons misconduct and reckless endangerment in the Wednesday encounter. A criminal complaint […]