SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


President's Budget Has Good News for Alaska Says Begich
Transportation, energy projects, rural health, included in funding


February 28, 2009

"President Obama's proposed Fiscal 2010 budget is a responsible first step in addressing the needs of the nation and Alaska as he asks Congress and American citizens to begin "a new era of responsibility." That's Senator Mark Begich's (D-Alaska) initial reaction to the President's budget released this week.

The 135-page summary of the budget notes a number of programs important to Alaska, including modernizing the air traffic control system; improving rural access to the aviation system; funding for climate and ocean research; investing in America's economic competitiveness by promoting innovation in U.S. manufacturing and deploying broadband; an investment nationwide of $50 million to promote renewable energy projects on federal lands and waters; and full funding for the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

"This budget proposal is a solid first step toward addressing America's needs in this time of economic crisis," Sen. Begich said. "I'm pleased President Obama recognizes Alaska's unique circumstances and the need for funding for programs vital to our state, from fisheries to aviation to adequate pay for our soldiers. I also commend the President for producing a transparent budget document, where what you see is what you get for the first time in a long time."

Based on a quick review of the budget proposal, in a news release Begich listed an overview of programs important to Alaska:

Department of Agriculture

Rural development ­ Budget provides $20 billion in loans for rural development, plus $1.3 billion to expand and develop rural broadband services.

Department of Commerce

Fisheries management ­ Improves sustainable management of marine fisheries and ocean resources with support for full implementation of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the law that manages the $4 billion-dollar seafood industry in Alaska's marine waters.

Climate research - Funding is provided to advance climate and ocean research, including efforts to understand and monitor ocean acidification, and will improve prediction and monitoring of the planet's weather and climate.

NOAA facilities - The budget builds on the recently enacted Recovery Act which provides $600 million for the construction and maintenance of NOAA research facilities, vessels, and satellites, as well as $230 million for habitat restoration, hydrographic services, research, and management operations.

Broadband expansion - Invests in America's economic competitiveness by promoting innovation in U.S. manufacturing, deploying broadband, and advancing measurement science, standards, and technology.

Business incubators - Expands economic development through the promotion of regional innovation clusters and the creation of a national network of public-private business incubators.

Export opportunities - Promotes opportunities for U.S. exporters in new markets and eliminates barriers to U.S. sales abroad.

Accurate census - The budget ensures the resources needed to complete the 2010 census. The decennial census is the Nation's largest peacetime mobilization and will employ approximately half of a million temporary workers, as well as activities to encourage participation by hard-to-reach populations and ensure completion of an accurate count.

Department of Defense

Pay raise for troops ­ Budget includes a 2.9 percent pay increase for service members.
Increased Pay for Disabled Retirees ­ Budget contains proposal to expand concurrent receipt of military retired pay and Veterans Disability Compensation to all retirees receiving disability retired pay.

Support for Wounded Warriors ­ Budget funds a dedicated Wounded Warrior complex in Alaska.

Increased Mental Health Support ­ Department of Defense will fully implement a comprehensive Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) registry and expand the number of mental health professionals.

Department of Education

Early Childhood Education - Decades of rigorous research demonstrates that high-quality early childhood education programs help children succeed in school and throughout their lives. Building on strong investments in the recovery Act, the President's budget also includes new initiatives aimed at ensuring that early childhood programs yield strong results for children.

Successful Models for Low-Achieving Schools. Budget builds on the Recovery Act's focus on strategic investments in scaling up educational practices that show results and cultivating promising new practices.

Department of Health and Human Services

Health Professions Workforce - Budget invests $330 million to address the shortage of health care providers, expands loan repayment programs for physicians, nurses, and dentists who agree to practice in medically underserved areas.

Energy Assistance to low-income families - Budget provides $3.2 billion for Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to help low-income families with their home heating and cooling expenses. That is the highest level of LIHEAP funding for any year except for the most recent, when the Nation was threatened with an unprecedented increase in energy costs.

Health Care for American Indians and Alaska Natives - Strengthens the Indian health system with sustained investments in health care services for American Indians and Alaska Natives to address persistent health disparities and foster healthy Indian communities. Budget includes over $4 billion for the Indian Health Service (IHS) to support and expand the provision of health care services and public health programs.

Prevents Teen Pregnancy - Budget supports State, community-based, and faith-based efforts to reduce teen pregnancy using evidence based models.

Department of Housing and Urban Development

Public housing ­ Budget provides $3 billion nationally with $3.3 million to Alaska to develop, finance, and modernize public housing in their communities.

Native American Housing Block Grant ­ Budget provides $255 million nationally with $39.9 million to 237 native villages and tribal organizations in Alaska. Tribal entities will use funding for energy efficient modernization of and renovation of housing maintained by Native American housing programs.

Assisted housing improvements - These investments will support a broad range of housing and community development projects that are ready to go. Many of these projects have been held up for lack of private investment due to fallout from the broader economic crisis and credit crunch.

Tax Credit Assistance Program ­ Budget provides $2.25 billion nationally and $5.5 million to Alaska to kick-start the production of stalled affordable rental housing projects that rely on Low-Income Housing Tax Credits.

Rental Assistance ­ Budget provides $2 billion nationally with $2.3 million to eight contracts in Alaska for Section 8 project-based housing contracts, to enable owners to undertake much-needed project improvements to maintain the quality of this critical affordable housing.

Homelessness - Investments will help communities and families that have experienced the brunt of the economic downturn. Resources will be used to stabilize and revive local neighborhoods and housing markets with heavy concentrations of foreclosed properties. Funds will also assist the vulnerable families and individuals who are on the brink of homelessness or have recently become homeless.

Community Development Block Grants ­ Budget provides $1 billion nationally and $1.2 million to three grantees in Alaska, the Municipality of Anchorage, City of Fairbanks and State of Alaska. Most local governments use this investment to rehabilitate affordable housing and improve key public facilities ­ helping to stabilize communities and create jobs locally.

Emergency Shelter Grant Program/Homelessness Prevention ­ Budget provides $1.5 billion nationally, with $1.9 million to the Municipality of Anchorage and State of Alaska to help rapidly re-house homeless persons and families who enter shelters.

Department of the Interior

Native law enforcement, education - Strengthens Native American communities through an increase of over $100 million for enhanced law enforcement and education.

Wildfire management - Anticipates future costs for catastrophic wildfires with a new contingent funding reserve of $75 million for the Department of the Interior.

Renewable energy - Invests over $50 million to promote renewable energy projects on federal lands and waters.

Environmental education - Creates educational and job opportunities for young people through expanded environmental education activities and new programs totaling $50 million to encourage them to hunt and fish responsibly.

Energy development - Encourages responsible development of oil and gas resources and closes loopholes that have given oil companies excessive royalty relief for offshore leases. Interior will take steps to ensure that oil and gas companies diligently develop their oil and gas leases or risk losing them ("use or lose").

Parks facilities - Protects national parks with $100 million in additional funds to operate and maintain park facilities and resources and $25 million to leverage private donations for park projects.

Endangered species - Conserves Federal and State lands and protects endangered species with appropriations of about $420 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, with annual increases to reach full funding of $900 million by 2014.

Climate change impacts - Assists State and Federal land management agencies with over $130 million in additional funding to monitor, adaptively manage and assess the impacts of climate change on the Nation's lands, fish and wildlife.

Department of Justice

Community-oriented policing ­ Budget begins funding Community Oriented Policing (COPS) which will put more police officers on the beat in Alaska. COPS grants will go to tribal, state and local law enforcement to hire and train community policing professionals, deploy crime-fighting technologies, and develop and test innovative policing strategies.
Department of Labor

Labor standards ­ Budget restores labor standards after eight years of erosion, which is important to Alaska because of the high number of work place accidents.
Department of Transportation

[Department of Transportation]

Next Generation Air Transportation System ­ With $800 million, the budget supports this NextGen system to modernize air traffic control. This will transition our air traffic control system from ground-based radar to more accurate satellite tracking system, increasing efficiency and improving aviation safety.

Rural aviation ­ Budget provides $55 million increase funding to improve rural access to aviation systems. Many smaller communities and rural areas in Alaska benefit from this program which subsidizes regular commercial air service connecting these areas to larger hubs in Alaska.

Public transportation ­ Budget increases funding for public transportation to support commuters, improve air quality, and reduce greenhouse gases. This funding could potentially be tapped for the recently-created Regional Transit Authority (RTA) connecting Anchorage and Mat-Su via light rail, and reducing traffic and congestion on the Glenn Highway.

Department of Veterans Affairs

Increase funding ­ VA will receive an additional $25 billion over 5 years.

Support for Rural Veterans ­ Will enhance outreach and services related to mental health care and cognitive injuries with a focus on access for Veterans in rural areas; and will increase the number of Vet Centers and mobile health clinics to expand access to mental health screening and treatment in rural areas.



Source of News:

Office of U.S. Senator Mark Begich


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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska