Mark Begich answers questions about issues in the 2014 election for U.S. Senate

Mark Begich - Democrat

Office: U.S. Senate. Other candidates: Dan Sullivan (R), Mark Fish (L), Ted Gianoutsos (NA).

1. Why are you running for office?

Being born and raised in Alaska, I understand the Alaskan way of solving problems. We Alaskans tackle challenges by working together. I have repeatedly taken on the Obama Administration to open the Arctic for drilling, get Alaska out from under the No Child Left Behind law and to change the VA in Alaska so our veterans didn't have to wait for care. I will work with all Alaskans to protect our fisheries, ensure financial security for families, and continue to create new jobs across our state.

2. Alaska has the highest rate of welfare recipients among all 50 states. What steps would you take to reduce that figure?

Alaska's resilient economy and strong work ethic have helped keep our state in better shape than most, but there is more to do. I support increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour which could raise 5,000 Alaskans out of poverty and raise incomes for 49,000 -- including 1,700 Alaska veterans. Dan Sullivan opposes raising the federal minimum wage and has offered no solutions for families struggling with student loan debt, high health care costs, or lowering their tax burden.

3. Alaskans often criticize federal overreach; at the same time, the federal government is as important as oil to the economy, supporting about one-third of the state's jobs and pumping billions of dollars annually into Alaska. Would you advocate more or less federal spending in Alaska? What programs would you reduce or increase to achieve your goal?

As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I will always fight for Alaska's needs and support smart federal investments. The best way to ensure that we can protect that flow of critical federal funding to Alaska is to get federal spending under control. I led the charge to cut the wasteful MEADS Pentagon program that the Army didn't want, saving $800 million; selling off surplus federal properties, saving $15 billion; and voted against Obama's trillion dollar budget increase.

4. What are three bills you will introduce or three efforts you will undertake -- or some combination -- to improve the state's economy?

My revenue sharing bill for offshore oil and gas would make sure Alaska gets its fair share -- $1 billion per year. My new version of the Magnuson-Stevens fisheries bill will protect 75,000 fishing-related jobs and preserve our world-class fisheries. My "Fair and Flat" tax reform bill that would protect the middle class and eliminate corporate tax loopholes.

5. What are three bills you will introduce or three efforts you will undertake -- or some combination -- to address social issues in Alaska such as the high rates of suicide, sexual abuse and domestic violence?

I introduced my Safe Families and Villages Act to address unreported abuse and an absence of law enforcement that has existed in communities for too long. I have also introduced the Suicide Prevention Research and Innovation Act to invest more money into understanding the troubling epidemic of suicide. And I championed efforts to address the alarming rate of suicide amongst veterans. The recent news of sexual assault in the National Guard is an unfortunate reminder that we have more work to do.

6. What authority should Alaska Native tribes and villages have over civil and criminal justice matters, and what rights should they have to regulate hunting and fishing on native land?

Unlike my opponent, I support subsistence rights. That is why I support more local control and stronger co-management practices once an agreement can be reached by Federal, State and Alaska Native groups. My Safe Families and Villages Act specifically provides funding for local law enforcement and tribal courts because the justice system is broken in many rural communities and the common sense step is giving local communities local control to solve problems.

7. What is your assessment of President Obama's foreign policy? What do you think is the United States' role in the world?

I believe the most appropriate grade for the President is Needs Improvement. While I believe we must take strategic steps to root out terrorism and protect our country from an attack, I do not support another open-ended, unfunded war by the U.S. military at this time. The U.S. should be a leader in combatting terrorism and that includes maintaining our unwavering alliance with Israel and disarming nuclear Iran, but we cannot foot the bill to be the world's police alone.

8. Would you take steps to change or repeal the Affordable Care Act? What would the changes be? If you favor repeal, what would you replace it with?

I continue to make fixes to the Affordable Care Act to make it work better for Alaska families and small businesses. We can't go back to the days when 1 in 3 Alaskans was denied health coverage or when being a woman was considered a pre-existing condition. I eliminated burdensome filing regulations for small businesses, eliminated unnecessary loopholes and penalties, and offered a Copper plan to reduce premiums by 18% for consumers. Repeal would leave thousands in Alaska without coverage.

9. Should the United States have "boots on the ground" in the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq? If not, what are the circumstances under which we should consider such action? And what other action should the U.S. take against Sunni militants in the Middle East?

I disagree with President Obama. I object to boots on the ground and see arming the rebels as a troubling potential step in that direction. Without question, the world is a dangerous place and ISIS is a serious threat. That is why I support aggressive airstrikes and building an international coalition to combat ISIS. We cannot afford another long ground war that drains our financial resources when we need to take care of our veterans.

10. What role do human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases play in climate change?

Climate change is real and Alaska is ground zero for its impacts. There is also scientific consensus that human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases play a significant role in these impacts. Both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Alaska Chapter of the National Climate Assessment have laid out the inevitable impacts on transportation, oil & gas development, forestry, fish and other industries if we do not recognize and respond to what the science tells us.

11. What legislation currently in Congress comes closest to the policy you would advocate for dealing with climate change?

I supported the bipartisan Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act because it represents a combination of common sense, bipartisan solutions to address climate change and control energy costs. In addition to increasing the use of energy efficient technologies for residential, commercial, and industrial consumers, this bill is estimated to save consumers $60 billion and create 160,000 jobs by 2030. This is a good first step at making progress on this issue.

12. 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.

Alaska is ground zero for climate change. Coastal erosion threatens communities across our state and we need innovative approaches like the DOD Innovation Readiness Training program to help relocate villages that want to move. I introduced my "Inuvikput" package in the Senate to address the changing Arctic, including investment in Arctic ports, roads and airports to enhance commerce while respecting the subsistence way of life.

13. How important a priority is reducing the federal deficit? Explain.

Top priority. We have reduced the annual deficit by 65% in 6 years. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I have focused on cutting wasteful spending and making smart investments. I also eliminated more than $800 million from the unwanted MEADS program. I also supported a constitutional amendment requiring Congress to balance the budget every year, blocked senators from giving themselves a pay raise and returned $1 million in taxpayer dollars from my office budget.

14. If you had to give the current Congress a letter grade, A through F, what grade would you give and why?

C-. Senators need to be straight with their constituents. Alaskans might not always agree with me, but I will always be honest and tell them where I stand. We need to put political differences aside so we can work together. We could get a lot more done if all senators worked together as Senator Murkowski and I do. We voted together 80% of the time this year -- more than any other bipartisan delegation in the Senate.

15. Should the U.S. tax code be simplified? Is it fair?

Yes. I cosponsored bipartisan tax reform legislation because I believe we must simplify our tax code and generate modest new revenue. My bill would allow most taxpayers to file on a single form while reducing the number of individual tax brackets from six to three: 15%, 25%, and 35%. It would also create a single flat corporate tax rate of 24%. And lastly, it is estimated that my plan could create 2.3 million jobs and cut the deficit by an average of $61 billion a year.

16. Name a specific federal environmental regulation you'd like to see rolled back, and why.

Senator Murkowski, Congressman Young, and I introduced legislation to repeal the Roadless Rule in Alaska's National forests. The roadless rule's cookie-cutter approach doesn't work for Alaska and is a bad way to manage forests. Repealing the rule will help keep existing mills and allow the development of hydro projects in the region. I have also successfully stopped the EPA requirement for avgas that would have hurt our general aviation pilots.

17. Name a federal environmental regulation that you think provides important protections for Alaskans.

An example of important protection is the regulation that will force the Koch brothers to clean up the polluted groundwater they have left behind at Flint Hills refinery. It is important to ensure the people in North Pole have safe, clean drinking water. I also support the Village Sage Water and Sewer program to help the 70 villages still lacking modern water and wastewater systems.

Website: markbegich.com


Age: 52

Occupation: U.S. senator, Small Business Owner

Current employer: Alaskans

Employment history:

-United States Senator: 2008-Present

-Mayor of Anchorage: 2003-2008

-University of Alaska Board of Regents: 2001-2002

-Alaska Commission of Post Secondary Education: 1995-2002

-Alaska Student Loan Corporation: 1995-2002, Chair 1996-2002

-Anchorage Assembly: 1988-1998

-Started first small business: 1976

Previous public offices held: United States Senator: 2008-Present

-Mayor of Anchorage: 2003-2008

-Anchorage Assembly 1988-1998

Previous unsuccessful runs for office:

-Anchorage Mayoral Election, 1994

-Anchorage Mayoral Election, 2000

Postsecondary education: N/A

Military service: None

Spouse's name: Deborah Bonito

Children: Jacob Begich

Alaska Dispatch News asked each candidate in the major races in Alaska this year to answer a series of written issue questions. Responses were limited to 500 characters.