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My Turn: Getting results for the Southeast

Posted: July 31, 2014 - 11:03pm

As the election season approaches, Alaskans will be faced with deciding the best way to maintain clout in Washington, D.C. For me, the answer is simple: Re-elect U.S. Senator Mark Begich.

Why? Begich knows that people in Southeast care about jobs. That’s why Begich has been a champion of responsible mining projects, such as Greens Creek and Kensington. He has fought with federal agencies to issue permits in a timely manner, most recently for the tailings expansion project at Greens Creek that will help keep the mine operating for many years to come. That means jobs.

Through his seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee and as chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, Begich has secured critical funding for Southeast Alaska communities.

At the top of the list is funding for the critical operations of the U.S. Coast Guard. The Coast Guard is on schedule to be modernized, including the addition of three new Fast Response Cutters in Southeast. The Pacific Salmon Fund and marine debris cleanup programs have been funded. The Payment-in-lieu-of Tax (PILT) program — paid to communities to offset losses in property taxes due non-taxable federal lands within their boundaries — has been funded for another year. In 2013, Juneau received $1.8 million in PILT funds, Haines received $366,000, and Ketchikan received $1 million.

Begich has worked hard to make sure the Alaska Marine Highway System will continue to receive its fair share of funds from the federal Ferry Boat Program, which gives the AMHS about $18 million. And he has strongly supported building new AMHS ferries in Alaska, putting Alaskans to work at Alaskan shipyards building vessels for Alaska.

Begich has repeatedly shown he is determined to work on a bipartisan basis to get things done that matter to Alaska. I’ve seen our delegation fighting together on a daily basis for our state. It’s not surprising both Murkowski and Young readily highlight Sen. Begich’s hard work for our state. Most recently, the entire Congressional delegation voted for the bipartisan budget agreement, averting another reckless government shutdown.

When it comes to veterans, seniors and those in need of health care, Begich has fought for improved services. He’s done it while cutting wasteful government spending to decrease our federal budget deficit.

As the election season approaches, we will see a lot of ads, mainly funded by anonymous out of state donors, attacking Mark Begich. Don’t believe them. Mark Begich was born and raised in Alaska. He has spent time throughout Southeast Alaska, making sure Alaska’s coastal communities have new ports and harbors, hospitals, and roads. Please join me in keeping a bipartisan Alaska delegation that intimately knows our state and uses its clout to get things done for Southeast by re-electing Mark Begich.

Rich Listowski is a community activist and long time resident of Juneau.

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