Alaska senators praise Bush for outlining policies

Posted: Wednesday, February 28, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Alaska's senators gave President George W. Bush high marks for policies and plans set forth in his address to Congress on Tuesday night.

Speaking to a pool of reporters after the speech, Sens. Ted Stevens and Frank Murkowski, both Republicans, praised Bush for remarks aimed at uniting disparate sides of the political spectrum while clearly laying out his priorities.

''I guess I was impressed with his energy level, his commitment, his image (for the country),'' Murkowski said.

Bush called for more spending for education, what he termed his highest priority

He called for a tax cut of $1.6 trillion while at the same time lowering the national debt over 10 years, lowering tax rates for all Americans, and holding spending next year to a 4 percent increase.

Bush called for pay increases for the military personnel and a commission to redesign the nation's retirement system.

Stevens acknowledged that there is disagreement about whether the government's surplus will be able to sustain everything in the Bush plan. He said tax cuts may be approved with triggers that could reinstate taxes if surplus figures do not come in as high as projected.

He also said the Bush plan may not be attempted immediately.

''I'm not sure he's going to do it all in one year,'' Stevens said, but the president did a good job of recognizing problem areas and noting what needs to be addressed.

Murkowski said Bush's credibility was on the line and he was not likely to overestimate what his plan could accomplish.

Bush waited until he was 40 minutes into his 50-minute speech before calling for a national energy policy. Bush did not mention exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a priority for the Alaska delegation.

Stevens said Bush made it clear during the presidential campaign, and in the weeks since, that he supports exploring for oil and gas in the refuge as a way to ease to relieve the country's energy crunch.

''I don't think he had to repeat that,'' Stevens said. ''He said he would come up with specifics later. That's good enough for me.''

Stevens said he believes Congress will again pass the bill to allow drilling and Bush will sign it.

Stevens said he would have liked Bush to address several other problems the country faces: transportation problems, including congestion at airports; deterioration of infrastructure, such as bridges and dams; and deferred maintenance at national parks.

He said Bush also could have addressed ''calamities'' performed by former President Bill Clinton in his final days in office, such as a proliferation of regulations that did not receive public review, and setting aside new park areas before taking care of the ones the country already has.

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