For Miller, an agenda that's bigger than Alaska

Posted: Sunday, September 19, 2010

Many candidates run to the right in the Republican primary - to the left if they're Democrats - and then move towards the middle when they win their party's nomination.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

Republican senatorial candidate Joe Miller isn't like many candidates.

"We stand behind everything we said the primary," Miller said this week on a campaign visit to Juneau.

Miller won the nomination by challenging federal spending and federal earmarks for Alaska, something that incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski and other members of the federal delegation have excelled at over the years.

Miller said that's changing, whether Alaska likes it or not.

"This state cannot depend on 40 percent of its economic activity being derived from the federal government in the future," he said.

Miller said his campaign's anti-spending stance isn't as radical as it has been portrayed, and doesn't involve an attempt to stop needed and justified spending.

"The media has attempted to define this campaign as one rejecting federal funding - we've never said that," Miller said last week to the Empire's editorial board.

One area Miller won't be seeking spending cuts is in defense spending, one of the biggest players in the Alaska economy.

"We understand that to be an enumerated power, one that is important to the national security of the state. I think that even in really, really hard economic times there can be an expectation of continual funding" for defense, he said.

By "enumerated power," Miller means one specifically authorized by the U.S. Constitution. Miller said those enumerated powers are what the federal government should focus on, and because of the huge national deficit, will have to focus on.

"It's an unsustainable debt load, and its one that will come crashing down on our shoulders," he said. "It's only a mater of when, not if."

"It's wholly irresponsible for us to sit back and say we can ignore this and continue to milk the system for all it is worth," he said.

Miller said his campaign positions are being misconstrued, and describes a more pragmatic approach than is usually recognized.

"We're at a point of insolvency at the federal level. Whether we like it or not, those funds are going away," he said.

"We don't gut federal spending, but we've got to transition to that, understanding that those federal funds will eventually stop," he said.

What Miller wants to ensure a strong future for Alaska is to transfer federal lands to the state, and roll back federal environmental regulations to let those lands be developed under state ownership.

"The only salvation of the state economically is the development of the resource base of the state," he said.

Along with taking title to federal lands, Miller wants to roll back environmental regulations that limit development.

"It's absolutely critical that the regulatory burden that currently exists be eased," he said.

All the projects these days cost more to regulate than to actually build, he said.

"You saw that with Kensington (Mine) here, a 20-year delay until it finally got off the ground, it's a consequence of the regulatory burden," he said.

Miller acknowledged low metal prices played a role in the Kensington delays, and that many of the delays occurred under Republican administrations.

"Even though I believe Democrats are much more to blame, the fact of it is that Republicans share significant blame as well," Miller said.

"There was significant growth of the central government level under the Bush Administration in ways that have actually created even more debt and even more unsustainable fiscal spending," he said.

There's a new intent to not just slow the growth of government, but instead roll it back, he said.

"This isn't, in military terms, a rear guard action. We're taking the offensive," said Miller, a West Point graduate.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@

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