Candidate's name: Mark Begich
Date of birth: March 30, 1962
Occupation: Mayor, Municipality of Anchorage,
Employment history: 25-year small business owner; University of Alaska Board of Regents (2001-2002); Alaska Commission of Post-Secondary Education (1995-2002), board member, chair (1996-1998), Alaska Student Loan Corporation (1995-2002); chair (1996-2002).
Previous public offices held: Mayor, Municipality of Anchorage (2003-present); Anchorage Assembly (1988-1998)
Previous unsuccessful runs for office: Mayor of Anchorage (1994 and 2000)
Education: Graduate of Steller High School (1981)
Spouse name: Deborah Bonito
Children: Jacob Begich
Web site: www.Begich.com
1. Why are you running for office?
To try to get Washington working for Alaska's families again. Being born and raised here and as the father of a young son, I care deeply about Alaska and its future. Alaska families face many challenges today, including skyrocketing energy costs and decreasing health care access. Alaska needs open, ethical and independent leadership to set our state on a path toward healthy, vibrant communities with new opportunities for Alaska families.
2. The most important issue in this election
Is developing a comprehensive energy plan that reduces energy costs in the short term and investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency to reduce costs over the long term.
3. What specifically should Congress do, if anything, to address rising energy prices?
Immediately clamp down on oil speculators, increase funding for home energy assistance and weatherization and help communities build more efficient generation to reduce prices long term. Adopt a comprehensive energy plan that includes increased domestic oil and gas production and major investments in renewable energy and new energy efficiency technologies.
4. If oil and gasoline prices continue to rise, could you support government price controls?
No, they generally don't work and can lead to shortages. I prefer government targets for conservation, including higher mileage standards for cars and trucks, as more effective at lowering prices. We also need to push oil companies to reinvest their record profits in exploration and development instead of buying back stock options.
5. Do you support drilling in ANWR? If the answer is yes, tell us something new that you as a member of Congress can do to open the coastal plain to drilling.
Yes, I have always supported and pushed for responsible development of ANWR. As I have as mayor, I will work to build new relationships across the country to support ANWR development. I will work across party lines and with all groups to include ANWR in a comprehensive national energy plan and look at new ways to access ANWR's reservoirs through directional drilling at adjacent sites.
6. TransCanada has suggested the federal government can help the proposed Alaska gas line by acting as a "bridge shipper." That means the federal government would agree to buy enough gas to fill the line if necessary, or at least guarantee the equivalent revenue stream for the pipeline owner. Will you support legislation to do this?
As U.S. Senator, I will fight for every economically responsible federal action to get the gas line built, including buying the gas for federal use or resale, as Anchorage did with the Beluga field. However, acting as a bridge shipper is too risky for American taxpayers. The federal government should create incentives and deadlines for producers with federal leases to develop them quickly to help supply the gas line.
7. Do you support offshore drilling in Bristol Bay?
We need to have a balanced approach to offshore drilling, but I have serious reservations about drilling in Bristol Bay where the renewable fishing resources are so critical to the regional culture and economy. As we saw in Prince William Sound, one mistake has long-term, disastrous consequences. We must also listen to local residents when making these decisions. Alaska must also get its fair share of lease revenues as the Gulf Coast states did in 2006.
8. What can the federal government or Congress do to further a natural gas pipeline should state measures such as an AGIA license fail to pass, or fail to "induce" a pipeline?
The federal government can help by getting more commitments to ship natural gas through an Alaska North Slope pipeline. I support recent efforts to speed up development of federal oil and gas leases in Alaska, such as in the NPRA. I have already pushed both presidential candidates to support the gas line and appoint a strong negotiator to bring all sides together to get this done. I will do the same in my Senate office.
9. Some say oil companies have leased vast public acreage and are now sitting on the leases without drilling. Point Thomson in Alaska has been mentioned as an example. Do you believe this has anything to do with our energy crunch?
A shortage of new domestic production has driven prices higher, but the bigger culprit has been increased demand worldwide. Americans can do more to force down prices by using less, clamping down on speculators, improving auto mileage, and developing alternative fuels. The industry should also be pushed to spend more of its record profits on new exploration and production and speed up development of federal leases.
10. Rural Alaska has been hit particularly hard by high fuel prices. Are there specific steps Congress or a member of Congress should take to address this?
I would push the State to fully fund Power Cost Equalization; commit federal funds to develop local, renewable energy sources; and help buy down the debt from utilities that make a commitment to more efficient generation. I support significantly increased funding for energy assistance programs to help families fill their fuel tanks and pay their bills this winter. I was disappointed Senator Stevens voted against both energy assistance and renewable energy tax credits this summer.
11. Should Congress continue President Bush's tax cuts to stimulate the economy? Explain.
As I have detailed on www.Begich.com, I would re-focus tax cuts on helping middle-class families reach their dreams covering childcare costs, sending their children to college, buying a home, and moving up the job ladder, as well as tax relief for small businesses to help cover the cost of health insurance. We also need a new investment in rebuilding our infrastructure and retrofitting federal buildings with energy-efficient technology, which will help stimulate the economy.
12. How important a priority is reducing the federal deficit? Explain.
Very important; 20 percent of every tax dollar goes to pay interest on the national debt, we are wasting taxpayer money and missing opportunities to invest in other national priorities. It is unfair and irresponsible to pass this burden on to our children and grandchildren. As mayor, I had to balance every budget every year. We need more accountability, transparency, and discipline at the federal level so taxpayers get the most out of their tax dollars.
13. Should the U.S. tax code be simplified? Is it fair?
Simplify - yes; fair - no. The current 1.4 million-word tax code takes the average taxpayer 31 hours to navigate. This is ridiculous. We need to simplify the tax code and provide tax relief to working families and small businesses. We need a one-page 1040 form that takes no more than five minutes to complete. We need to eliminate special interest tax perks, fix the marriage penalty and increase the child tax credit.
14. What should the future U.S. role in Iraq be?
Consulting with generals on the ground, the U.S needs to redeploy its troops out of Iraq. Iraq and its neighbors need to step up to the plate to help restore security in the region while the U.S. redeploys its troops to where the real threat is in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The war is estimated to cost over $500 billion. Iraq needs to tap its vast oil reserves, not the U.S. Treasury, to rebuild its infrastructure.
15. How long do you believe the U.S. occupation should continue?
Our soldiers have done a tremendous job in Iraq, despite inadequate political or financial support. Here at home, our military families also deserve our appreciation. In consultation with the generals on the ground, it is time to withdraw our troops and responsibly end this war. The Iraqi government should step up and commit its funding and military forces. Our resources should be reinvested in our economy and infrastructure.
16. Should a date be set for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq? Explain.
I don't think we can set a firm date for withdrawal, but believe it's time for America to responsibly redeploy our troops out of Iraq in consultation with the generals on the ground. Our troops have served admirably, but political leadership has failed them with no plan, inadequate equipment and diplomatic neglect. We must shift our attention back where it belongs: fighting al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere.
17. What role should Congress have in deciding the kind of military approach the U.S. uses in Iraq?
I support the recommendation of former Secretaries of State James Baker and Warren Christopher to establish a joint congressional committee and require the president consult with its members. Congress also needs to ensure our troops and military families are taken care of during the Iraqi war. I was disappointed Senator Stevens recently voted to block a pay raise for troops and better health care.
18. Under what circumstances, if any, would you support a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons?
The U.S. must keep every option on the table to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, including military action. However, the U.S. must first engage in the strongest political and economic pressure to stop the enrichment program. If Iran were able to secure nuclear weapons, it would almost certainly launch a new arms race and encourage other Middle East states to seek nuclear weapons as well.
19. How good a job is the military and the Veterans Administration doing in providing ongoing care to soldiers and ex-soldiers who served in the war? What specifically would you do to improve services?
The VA is woefully underfunded. All veterans deserve far better care. We must fully fund the VA, provide Alaska veterans quicker access to health care, finally build a veterans hospital in Alaska, and provide a "heroes access card" to access care anywhere, anytime. We also need more VA doctors whose specialty is helping veterans with PTSD and other mental health injuries. I also support and as mayor offered land for a Veterans Home in Alaska.
20.What role do human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases play in global warming: None, some, most, or all? Explain.
The science is clear that greenhouse gas emissions play a significant role in global warming. Alaska scientists and Native elders point to greenhouse gas emissions as the cause of the rapid changes taking place in Alaska, from shrinking Arctic sea ice to insect-infested Southcentral forests. We must act now to reduce emissions and prevent more dramatic impacts on our state. It also will make our economy stronger and help Alaska families cut energy costs.
21. What legislation currently in Congress comes closest to the policy you would advocate for dealing with climate change?
The Climate Security Act would help the country transition to a more efficient and competitive economy by spurring innovation in renewable energy and energy-efficiency technology. The bill also includes $50 billion to help Alaska confront and adapt to the impacts of climate change and would have improved the market for natural gas and the gas line. Although the bill is not perfect, it would help secure a better future for our state.
22. Coastal erosion is a serious issue in a number of rural Alaska villages, with discussions about relocating some communities. Do you believe this is appropriate or realistic? Explain.
When I was traveling along the Kuskokwim River recently I heard a lot of concern about moving villages. This has to be a community-driven decision. We already see dozens of villages facing significant threats from increased erosion and flooding without enough funding to relocate. As senator, I would work to secure new federal funding to help these communities.
23. Is it appropriate to use the polar bear listing as a threatened species to limit oil and gas development in the Arctic or regulate distant greenhouse gas emissions? What other steps, if any, do you think government and industry should take to protect Alaska's polar bear population?
As the Bush Administration made clear, there is strong evidence that polar bears are threatened by the shrinking Arctic sea ice. Taking steps now to protect polar bears is appropriate. However, the listing should not be used to regulate distant greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, we must pass comprehensive legislation to cut these emissions. I believe we can continue to conduct oil and gas development in the Arctic while also protecting the polar bear.
24. What's your position on the proposed Pebble mine in southwest Alaska? How do you plan to vote on the "Clean Water" initiative on the August ballot?
Mining is important to the Alaska economy and provides good jobs throughout our state, but Pebble Mine raises serious concerns for me. I am not convinced at this time with current technology that we can develop Pebble while also protecting the renewable resources of the region. However, we do need to bring more resources to the table to build a sustainable, strong economy in the region that provides jobs in the communities.
25.Are changes needed in the way congressional earmarks work? Under what circumstances should members of Congress be allowed to direct federal spending to specific projects in their district?
I will fight for federal funding and earmarks that help our state. However, we have to bring much greater transparency to earmarks so Alaskans are confident their congressional delegation is fighting for projects that benefit Alaska families, not special interests. As part of my Ethics Pledge, I will post every earmark request submitted to me and every earmark I request. My priorities will be set by Alaska communities, not lobbyists and special interests.
26. What should Congress do, if anything, to help increase the supply of doctors in Alaska?
We need to permanently fix reimbursement rates for Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare so Alaskans have access to their current doctors and other health professionals. We need to create new incentives (loan forgiveness, tuition grants, and higher reimbursement rates by insurers for primary care doctors) to attract more health professionals to Alaska. We should expand the WAMI program at the University of Alaska to train Alaska doctors and expand residency programs for primary care doctors here.
27. Some major Alaska fisheries have been "rationalized." That is, individual shares have been assigned to fishermen and even to processors. Do you support this approach for more of Alaska's fisheries?
Alaska's major commercial fisheries are already covered by such management plans. I support the current review of some of the more contentious provisions such as processor shares. Proposals pending before the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council need to work themselves out through the process. Science, not politics, should guide these decisions. I also think we need to focus on getting limited-entry permits back in local ownership before any more rationalization.