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Congressman Don Young stopped by the Juneau Chamber of Commerce Thursday to address issues he sees that are affecting the state’s ways of doing business, as well as those of the country.
The Republican representative spoke with an upbeat authority on several topics, beginning with what’s going on in Congress.
“I will tell you this has been one of the more interesting years because I have 85 freshmen on my side and there are nine on the other side,” Young said in reference to the Republican results in November’s Congressional elections — 35 of those Republicans have never held public office. There are some differences of opinion and challenges ahead. “But they’re a good group and I think in time that they will understand what we have to do and where we need to go.”
One of those places he believes the country should head is toward more production, saying the nation was built on manufacturing, production and utilization of natural resources. He said it’s important to get back to industries he said have been lost over the last 50 years.
“We’ve done a terrible job of that,” Young said.
Young elaborated, stating the U.S. is now importing about 78 percent of its oil. “We have the President down in Brazil saying we’re going to be excited about buying your oil.”
He also said we’re importing about 49 percent of our food, 90 percent of minerals and 80 percent of fiber.
“I try to encourage my people and say OK we do cuts, but we have to make it more readily available to produce. Most businesses that leave this country don’t leave because of labor cost,” he said, noting other countries like Japan have higher labor costs than in the U.S. He said businesses too often leave because of government permitting requirements leading to higher litigation possibilities.
“The second thing we have to do now as a Congress now, and I believe we can do it if we have the courage to do it, is all money raised and spent has to originate in the House. Not the United States Senate or the President of the United States,” Young said.
In addressing regulatory reform, Young met with governors, asking them to submit examples of egregious federal regulations to help form a bill to repeal unnecessary regulations. He gave as an example the Environmental Protection Agency requiring approval of $30 million for a water treatment plant in Soldotna when “the water they’re putting in now is better than the water that’s in the Kenai River.”
He said the state is just as guilty for too many regulations, saying the Department of Environmental Conservation merely parrots the EPA.
Young described his vision of the state as when “the federal government interferes with your business capability then the agencies that are duplicated by the state should be your defender, not the puppet of the federal government.”
He also said that regulations have taken away state land right usage. He said the state allowed this from growing comfortable from past oil money, and encourages increased production to break out of that comfort zone.
“We have to wake up,” he said. “Because the pipeline’s producing about 600,000 barrels of oil. Before the legislature now, you have an opportunity to encourage them, yes, to think about having tax incentives so we can get more oil in that pipeline.”
He recommends especially increasing incentives for the heavy oil, saying there are 27 billion barrels of heavy oil in the Arctic and mixing in the heavy oil can increase the pipeline by about a million barrels a day.
He said all businesses should address the issue of regulations, as they have greatly increased in numbers.
Another topic was his feeling that the state should build and support the hydropower sites in Southeast Alaska, calling hydropower “the gas line of the North.”
“There should be no burning of diesel fuel anywhere in this state, in Southeast Alaska. They should be all hydro.”
Young said 14 sites have been chosen to build hydropower sites, but such production is inhibited for sites in designated roadless areas.
Young believes certain programs need to be cut, but such cuts must specify what areas to eliminate rather than cutting across the board.
He said the state has an opportunity to go down a different path and provide for the future by following its interests and not blindly following what the federal government imposes each time.
In relation to this topic, Young responded to a question on the health care reform bill, calling it “the worst piece of legislature I’ve ever seen. It will not improve health care.”
He said not funding it will prevent its implementation.
• Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or firstname.lastname@example.org.