Unions to run radio ads reminding Rep. Young of his “bipartisan” pledge on deficit

Richard Mauer

For Alaskans who welcomed the respite from political advertising now that the election was over, guess what?

With the "fiscal cliff" approaching and Congress meeting in lame-duck session, three national labor unions will be running radio ads this week reminding Rep. Don Young and three Republican colleagues that they backed both spending cuts and increased taxes to resolve the deficit. The unions reject sharp austerity measures, saying that would cripple job growth and the economy.

"We think the American people spoke loud and clearly at the ballot box," said Chuck Loveless of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. "They want lawmakers to create jobs and make sure that wealthy Americans pay their fair share. They rejected cuts in Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and education. They want a good deal for middle income Americans, not a grand bargain for politicians."

In a teleconference from Washington, D.C., Loveless and representatives of the National Education Association and the Service Employees International Union unveiled a four-day media campaign targeting voters in Alaska, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Virginia. The unions represent public sector workers who depend on government paychecks and pensions.

The spots, costing the unions "six figures" to air, are meant to pressure the four Republican congressmen and five Democratic senators to extend middle class tax cuts and preserve some of the nation's most popular programs as Congress looks for ways to reduce the federal deficit.

The Alaska State Employees Association and Alaska's Public Safety Employees Association are affiliated with AFSCME, while most Alaska teachers, including those in Anchorage, belong to locals of the NEA. SEIU doesn't list any Alaska locals.

Young was one of 40 Republican and 60 democratic House members to sign a letter to the joint "Deficit Super Committee" last year urging bipartisan cooperation and consideration of "all options" to slice $4 trillion from the deficit.

Mary Kusler, the NEA's director of government relations, described Young and the other three as "moderate Republicans" who have shown "a willingness to put people ahead of party politics." The other targeted Republicans are Mike Fitzpatrick and Partrick Meehan of Pennsylvania and Jo Ann Emerson of Missouri.

"We need to see their continued leadership on this issue as we move forward," Kusler said.

Spokesman Luke Miller said Young's position is "very simple."

"He believes everything -- including entitlement and tax reform -- should be on the table," Miller said. Young would like to see the tax code simplified, government spending cut and entitlement programs reformed, Miller said.

"It's important to note that while our economy continues to recover, letting the Bush Tax Cuts expire or raising tax rates on the American people, is the wrong thing to do."

The radio ads will run Thursday through Sunday in Anchorage, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Springfield, Mo., and Cape Girardeau, Mo.

"It's a significant radio buy," Kusler said. "We're aiming to reach folks as they are out and about shopping and traveling through the holiday week."

A simultaneous television ad campaign will target democratic senators in Colorado, Virginia and Missouri, said Peter Colavito, director of government relations for SEIU.

During the news conference, pollster Mark Mellman said a post-election survey of 1,000 U.S. voters found "the American people really oppose crippling austerity measures as well as any kind of grand bargain that would undermine a commitment to senior citizens, to schools, to public safety, in order to balance the budget."

Asked to choose between between spending to create jobs and cutting spending to reduce the deficit, Americans strongly supported jobs, Mellman said. For Democrats, it was 81 percent; independents picked jobs 68 percent of the time, and Republicans chose jobs by 51 percent, he said. Americans are convinced that "the best way to reduce the deficit is to put people back to work and improve the economy," he said.

Reach Richard Mauer at rmauer@adn.com or 257-4345.

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