SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Stevens Criticizes Bush Administration Over Proposed Transportation Budget


March 02, 2008

At Thursday's Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing on the Fiscal Year 2009 Department of Transportation budget, Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) expressed his strong opposition to the Bush Administration's proposed cuts to programs that impact Alaska.

"I just feel that somehow or another people in your Department now have lost sight of history, why some of these programs exist," Senator Stevens told Transportation Secretary Mary Peters.

The President's proposed budget would significantly decrease funding for a variety of programs in the Department of Transportation, including the Federal Aviation Administration's Essential Air Service Program (EAS), the Small Shipyard Assistance Program, and pipeline safety. EAS, alone, would be cut by $60 million.

"Now you tell me, you're going to have to play God and tell me which villages get cut off and don't get three flights a week?" said Senator Stevens. "And that's everything. That's milk and sugar and flour. Everything comes in by air. I'm from a small population state. Our state has a small population, but it has enormous area. It's the area that has the greatest hope for supplying resources we need as a nation, and yet it seems to have been abandoned by this bill that's before us now."

Senator Stevens was particularly troubled with the proposed budget cuts in light of the Bush Administration's desire to see a significant decrease in congressional earmarks.

"This budget has been slashed. Just slashed," said Senator Stevens. "I don't really understand it. If you knew the paradigm of no more earmarks, why did you cut these budgets expecting us to put the money back? That is what's happened now two or three years in a row, these bills. The budgets have been cut and we've been forced to go and put the money back."

During a question-and-answer session with Secretary Peters, Senator Stevens expressed concern about the lack of proper regulations governing unaccompanied minors' air travel. Last year, a 15-year old Juneau girl purchased a plane ticket without her parents' consent and later boarded a flight, unaccompanied by an adult, to meet with a man in the Lower 48 she had befriended online.

"She went down and bought a ticket, and got on a plane and it was discovered she was gone," said Senator Stevens. "She was a minor, an unaccompanied minor, and I've asked that something be done within the system so we won't have to legislate on that. It'd be a difficult thing to legislate on, but it's possible. I just really think anyone that's concerned about their families would worry about this happening, and young people are very capable of going and buying a ticket and disappearing. I just don't think that ought to be possible. We ought to at least have a proof-of-age requirement to get on an airplane. Now, if you don't do that, I am going to introduce a bill for that. I think it has to be done."

Secretary Peters agreed with Senator Stevens and committed to reach out to the airlines and travel agencies to create guidelines for unaccompanied minors.

"I agree with your concern, and as a mother and a grandmother, I also am very concerned, especially today with the availability of the Internet for young unaccompanied minors to travel, perhaps, without their parents' consent and knowledge," said Secretary Peters. "Senator, let me commit to you today that we will move forward with your request and see what kind of documentation we can develop. We will work with you and your staff to determine the most appropriate path forward," said Secretary Peters


Source of News:

Office of Sen. Ted Stevens

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Ketchikan, Alaska