I'm taking advantage of the Senate being out of session this month to visit Alaskans across the state to discuss issues from energy and transportation to jobs and federal budget cuts. Over the weekend, I was able to visit with hundreds of Alaskans in Ketchikan, Sitka and Juneau. The rest of this week, I'm in Kenai, Anchorage, Chugiak, Eagle River and the Mat-Su Valley.
I was especially honored to address the 100th anniversary of the Alaska Native Brotherhood in Sitka over the weekend. Created in 1912, the same year Alaska won the right to create a Territorial Legislature, the ANB and its sister organization, the Alaska Native Sisterhood, have achieved enormous economic and civil rights accomplishments for Alaska's Native people.
This week in Anchorage, I am joining a focus on the important role the visitor industry plays in our economy. I'll speak to the Alaska Travel Industry Association's annual conference Tuesday, where I'll detail numerous steps Congress has taken in recent years to grow this industry and its nearly $5 billion in benefits to Alaska. I am also holding a field hearing of the Steering and Outreach Committee I chair to hear about the state of their industry and what we can do to improve it.
One of the issues Alaskans tell me they are concerned with is the series of automatic federal budget cuts scheduled to take place early next year unless Congress acts. I share this concern and have been pressing for a comprehensive deficit-reduction measure. Without action, Alaskans could see budget cuts of up to 9 percent to military spending, rural development and social service programs, among many others. I'll continue to work for a responsible mix of budget reductions, some new tax revenues and small investments in education and public facilities to encourage private-sector growth.
Please continue to let me know the issues of concern to you.
Senator Mark Begich