Rep. Don Young stopped in Ketchikan on Friday, and spoke during a special Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce lunch. He addressed some of his favorite issues: Federal regulatory overreach, the need to increase manufacturing in the United States, the need for a new president – but not Clinton – and how much he loves working for Alaska.
Rep. Don Young said Alaska’s current budget woes could have been avoided if state lawmakers had listened to him back in the 1980s, when a similar drop in oil prices led to a similar budget deficit.
“I kept telling them: You’ve got to diversify into an economic plan that keeps the budget stable and not depend on one industry. And the state didn’t listen.”
He said oil prices rebounded then and the state continued to rely on oil tax revenue for most of its income. If it had instead invested more in fisheries, tourism and timber, Young said, Alaska wouldn’t be facing a $4 billion deficit now.
He said Alaska is sitting on a gold mine, if it’s managed correctly.
“The one bad part about it: We can manage it correctly, but we have what I call a nasty landlord. That nasty landlord is the federal government, and the utilization of regulations is stifling this country and this state.”
In hopes of alleviating that problem somewhat, Young has introduced a measure that would transfer 2 million acres of the Tongass National Forest to state ownership. He said Alaska still hasn’t received all the land it was promised at statehood, so a transfer makes sense.
Young said he believes the bill will succeed in Congress, and if it also makes it past the president – although probably not the current one – Young said the state then can use its new acreage for logging.
Young often addresses the issue of manufacturing, and how those jobs no longer exist – at least not in large numbers – in the United States. He told the Chamber audience that the national debt continues to increase because the country no longer makes its own stuff.
“We’re all guilty. Each one in this room is guilty. I challenge all of you to take all the clothes off your body not made in the United States. What do I have? I got a bunch of naked people. And that’s not too attractive, I’ll tell you right now. We’re all guilty because we buy from abroad, using borrowed dollars to buy.”
Terry Wanzer, a local business owner, asked Young about the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare. Young said it’s the worst piece of legislation ever passed, but he doesn’t believe it ever will be fully repealed.
“Once you give birth to something like that, it’s pretty hard to put it back in the toothpaste tube.”
Instead, Young said, he hopes to revise the national healthcare reform measure.
Another audience member expressed concern that President Barack Obama will use his power to declare national monuments to put more of Southeast Alaska off limits to resource extraction.
Young said it’s likely the president will try and if he succeeds, the only way to repeal it would be by another president. But, he said, Hillary Clinton won’t do it.
“I’ll be right up front with you: I am not a Hillary supporter. I remember her when she had braces on her teeth and long braids. She was a prosecutor to Richard Nixon as an intern in law school. She was a little snit then and she’s a big snit now.”
Dick Coose, a Ketchikan City Council member, expressed concern about President Obama obstructing Congress.
“We send a Republican Congress back there and got nowhere,” Coose said. “The traitor sitting in the White House just gives you the finger. What are we going to do about it?”
Young responded that it’s partly Congress’ fault, for not working together and for removing the power of earmarks.
“Without earmarks I have no way to make that kid get his hand out of the cookie jar, or put it in. I had the Transportation Committee and I was very proud of it. I had 75 votes, half Democrats and half Republican and they all voted with me. One of the reasons I had power over them: I could reward or I could punish.”
Young briefly addressed his bid for re-election and the recent announcement of a new candidate: Steve Lindbeck, who is running as a Democrat.
“He’s going to come down and say we need a new face. Maybe. But keep in mind this congressman — your congressman — has signed into law by presidents more than any other legislator to date. I think that’s a pretty successful job.”
Young will turn 83 in June. If re-elected, this will be his 23rd term as Alaska’s only congressman.