• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
News Alert: DIRECTV Customers. Tell DIRECTV to bring back KTVA. Call 800-531-5000. - Read More
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

  • Aviation and more at the Alaska Air Carriers Association convention

    by Daybreak Staff on Feb 20, 15:19

    This week the Alaska Air Carriers Association (AACA) is kicking off its annual convention and trade show. It will be an opportunity for people to learn more about careers in aviation. Jane Dale, the association’s executive director, said AACA was founded in 1966, primarily for the operations in Southeast. Since then, it’s expanded to become what […]

  • News

    Alaska House passes bill protecting reemployment rights for some National Guardsmen

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Feb 20, 15:17

    The Alaska House of Representatives passed a bill Monday that would protect reemployment rights for Alaskans serving with National Guard units from other states. A statement from Rep. Chris Tuck’s office explained that current federal law protects reemployment rights for Guardsmen called away for federal duty and Alaska law covers Alaskans called into federal service […]

  • News

    University system agrees to resolve issues in federal review

    by KTVA / AP on Feb 20, 13:41

    The University of Alaska system has agreed to resolve issues stemming from a federal review of its handling of campus sexual assault and sexual harassment cases. The agreement, signed by system President Jim Johnsen on Friday and released Monday, outlines steps the system will need to take over the next several years. It follows a […]

  • Getting ready for Fur Rondy 2017

    by Daybreak Staff on Feb 20, 11:55

    Fur Rendezvous starts this Friday, Feb. 25. According to the executive director, Beth Helgeson there’s one big change from previous years. “We have got winter for our winter festival,” she said. Helgeson added that all the snow and perfect temperatures will be great for the sled dog races, which has a six figure purse this […]

  • News

    1 dead, 7 hospitalized from carbon monoxide at south Anchorage home

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Feb 20, 10:59

    The source of carbon monoxide exposure in a south Anchorage home, where one person was found dead, is under investigation, according to Anchorage Fire Department deputy chief Jodi Hettrick. Few details were immediately available, but Hettrick said someone in the house woke up, realized another person wasn’t breathing, and called police. Around 8:20 a.m. Monday, AFD responded […]

  • On-Air

    Teacher of the Week: Joanne Christian

    by Megan Mazurek on Feb 20, 10:53

    Tudor Elementary Kindergarten teacher Joanne Christian is starting her students off with the basics — sounding and spelling three letter words and putting together sentences. “They come in not knowing how to write their name, read their name,” Christian said. She loves being there for the start of a child’s education. “I just love that they come […]

  • 20 years later: Anniversary of Bethel school shooting still emotional

    by Rhonda McBride on Feb 20, 8:54

    Feb. 19, 1997. If you lived in Bethel on that day, you would remember exactly where you were and what you were doing, even though it was 20 years ago. That’s the day Evan Ramsey took a 12-gauge shotgun to school and opened fire in the lobby just before class started. The shooting rampage at […]

  • News

    Troopers kill Big Lake man allegedly threatening to kill small child

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Feb 20, 7:52

    Last updated at 6:58 a.m. on Feb. 20 Alaska State Troopers have released the identity of the agency’s Special Emergency Reaction Team officer who fired the fatal shot as Lt. James Helgoe. He has worked for the Alaska Department of Public Safety for 17 years. Original story posted at 8:32 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 17 Alaska State Troopers […]