U.S. Sen. Mark Begich released the following statement after President Obama tonight delivered his State of Union address:
"I was pleased to hear the President touch on key Alaska priorities: investing in our energy future, supporting our small businesses and preparing our workforce for an evolving economy. However, I have never been shy about taking a different approach to tackling tough issues.
On early education, the President and I share some common ground. In Alaska, preschool can cost close to $1,000 a month, making it hard for Alaska families to afford. That's why I have championed a package of early education bills to ensure families have good, affordable options while also helping students enter into early education careers without burdensome student loans and low pay prospects.
And I have to applaud the President's commitment to bring our remaining servicemen and women home from Afghanistan by 2014. Tonight, Congressman Young and I sat together and saluted the 9,000 Alaskan soldiers who were deployed over the last year to Afghanistan. Bringing our remaining troops home safely should be our number one goal for the next year.
When it comes to energy, all Alaskans know that not only does America have the potential to control our own energy future, but Alaska's vast energy resources are a key component to getting there. I was specifically pleased to hear the President recognize the value of revenues generated from oil and gas production, but before we start creating new ways to use those funds, we need to make sure that the communities directly impacted from production are taken care of first. That is why I just reintroduced my Alaska-focused revenue sharing bill to ensure that Alaska gets its fair share -- just like the Gulf Coast states. The President said himself that he would "keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits" - I will hold him to that and look forward to continued progress working with the Administration and developing Alaska's vast energy resources.
The President also laid out some big ideas for reducing our energy consumption and combating climate change. No one understands those two issues better than Alaskans. We still face the highest energy costs in the country and see the greatest impacts from climate change. That is why we are the perfect place to develop the cutting edge technologies that will reduce climate change emissions and save consumers money in the long-run. As I always say, if we can make it work in Alaska -- we can make it work anywhere.
On the national debt, I was pleased to hear the President echo my calls for comprehensive tax reform so Alaska families and businesses can see lower rates and spend less time combing through the tax code. We need a simpler, flatter, tax to grow our economy and be competitive in the global market.
As a small businessman, I know we need to make our tax system work better but we also need our government to work better for small businesses. I wish the President had spent more time talking about how to help small businesses grow by giving them greater access to federal contracts and reducing the overwhelming load of government regulations.
When it comes to our economy and job creation, even the critics have been forced to agree that we are in a much better place that we were four years ago, but there is more potential to be tapped. I will continue to build on that progress and fight for Alaska's middle class families, break bureaucratic barriers for our small businesses, and make sure Washington doesn't get in the way of our economic future."