Alaska Speaker of the House Mike Chenault sent a message back to U.S. Sen. Mark Begich following Begich’s annual address to the Legislature on Monday. In a press release, Chenault said that he “wished to correct the record and call for clarity and results for Alaska, instead of more Beltway-style speeches.”
The move was unusual for Chenault, who, although a Republican, is normally more conciliatory.
In his speech, Begich highlighted a variety of federal legislative successes, including keeping the F-16s at Eielson Air Force Base, increased funds for the Arctic, and fighting federal government overreach.
All of that likely would not have rankled the Republican dominated Legislature. However, a large chunk of Begich’s speech was devoted to state education issues. Among other things, he came out against a resolution that would let the public vote on changing the constitution to allow for public money to go to private institutions.
“Public dollars are for public schools, period,” Begich said.
If two-thirds of the Legislature passes the resolution, the question would be on the ballot in the general election, and would likely be a huge poll-draw for religious conservatives, who are also likely to vote against Begich.
In Chenault’s rejoinder, among other things, he blamed the federal government and Begich for shorting the Anchorage School District of funds. He criticized Begich for his refusal to say where he stands on the oil tax repeal, and as is requisite among Republicans, brought up Begich’s vote on ObamaCare.
“We need a senator that stands up for us, not one who only says he will, then votes with his party against Alaskans,” Chenault said.
Read the release in full below:
After sitting through a speech today delivered by Alaska’s junior senator, Alaska Speaker of the House Mike Chenault has a message back to Mark Begich: less talk, more action. Speaker Chenault, following the senator’s annual address to legislators, wished to correct the record and call for clarity and results for Alaska, instead of more Beltway-style speeches. Speaker Chenault cited the following remarks and responses to questions from legislators during and after his address:
Sen. Begich said it should come down to increasing the Base Student Allocation. “Anchorage, where he was mayor, has lost $46 million over the past two years due to federal sequestration and loss of stimulus money. That’s from its own financial officer. He should be working to secure federal funding for schools to fill that gap, not asking the state to pay even more than we already do. We’ve well-funded schools on our end, and have more than doubled inflation. He should be making sound decisions and know the facts before he speaks,” Speaker Chenault said. “The federal government shorted the Anchorage School District, not we the legislature. Why is he letting the federal government do that to Alaskan kids, increasing the financial burden at the state and local level?”
Sen. Begich wouldn’t say which way he would vote on the Senate Bill 21 referendum, citing only that he supports “certainty” in the tax system. “I would hope the senator realizes that that is exactly what SB21 provides, that certainty. Changing the system again would lead to uncertainty. Sen. Begich should be supporting SB21 like a majority of Alaskans, leading to jobs and more exploration, not stagnation,” Speaker Chenault said.
Sen. Begich admitted that he had reservations about President Barack Obama’s signature piece of legislation, despite being the 60th vote needed to pass it. “He can’t have it both ways. Don’t vote for a bill if you know it’s a bad bill. Don’t vote for a bill if you don’t know what’s in it, or the consequences to Alaskans. Now, Alaskans are saddled with a subpar system, a web portal that didn’t deliver, and having to live with the disingenuous statements made by Sen. Begich and President Obama: ‘you can keep your plan or you doctor if you like’ is what they told us. Well, that’s clearly not the case. Sen. Begich is back-tracking. Alaskans deserve better than that,” Speaker Chenault said.
Speaker Chenault said it comes down to taking responsibility and showing accountability. “Instead, what Alaskans heard today was more spin from Sen. Begich, and few solutions. We need a senator that stands up for us, not one who only says he will, then votes with his party against Alaskans,” Speaker Chenault said.
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