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Congressman Don Young discusses issues facing Alaska and the nation

Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 4:42 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - On Thursday, May 6th, Alaska Congressman Don Young spoke with KTVF/KXDF about multiple topics currently in the news.

On President Biden’s infrastructure bill, the American Jobs Plan, Young said, “The main thing is the term ‘infrastructure,’ and interpretation of infrastructure from the president right now goes far beyond what the interpretation has been in the past, [and] should be right now. He wants everything added to this bill because it’s a must-pass bill, because I do believe people want good bridges. In the state of Alaska, I think we have 39 bridges [that] are in serious jeopardy right here in this state, and that’s most every bridge in the state.”

He added, “We need new roads. We need repair to the existing roads. We need better airports. We need new rail. We need new ports if we want to be economically competitive.”

“Now he’s come down with a 2 trillion 400 billion dollar bill that has a lot more to do than [with] highways, cars, airplanes, trains, ships and ports, and that’s where the rub comes in,” Young explained, adding, “You have to say these issues are good. Veterans, you bet. Lead in people’s homes, I don’t agree with that, but he wants to remove that. Clean water, okay sounds good. All these other things can be put into another bill or other bills, and keep the, I call the infrastructure, the movement of products and goods, have it available for and advancement for the new society. He’s not there yet, but he’s getting closer.”

Young explained that the goal is “to get a bill that will be acceptable on both sides.”

When it comes to paying for infrastructure, Young discussed the possibility of a fuel tax. “This is where I may get into a little trouble, but as a constituent, the state of Alaska, the legislative body of Alaska, has the lowest tax on fuel in the nation, and yet we need that badly for infrastructure. Now the argument against increasing that tax is we can’t earmark it. We can’t dedicate it. I’m arguing you can, let someone challenge it.”

He said, “There is no tooth fairy. You cannot borrow the money to do this, and by the way the best, the supporters I had were the trucking industry, because when they’re stopped, jammed up, cannot move their product, they’re losing money. They support it, and they pay the majority of the tax anyway, so there’s support for it.”

Young also discussed partisanship in Congress. “Right now, we’re terribly divided. It’s ‘if you’re a Republican, you’re bad. If you’re a Democrat, you’re bad.’ That’s not good, and what I’ve often said, the far right and the far left now are running this country, and they’re not running it because they won’t talk to one another. The body, the main part is not being heard because they’re the most vocal.”

He added, “We’re not solving any problems, and that’s my biggest challenge, because Congress is not governing as they should. It started deteriorating about 20 years ago, maybe a little longer, and it’s gotten now where no one talks to one another. It’s very discouraging because if there’s a problem, and you’re a Democrat but I’m a Republican, but there’s a problem, okay? We can’t solve it 100 percent your way, nor 100 percent my way. We have to sit down and talk about it and reach a solution to solve the problem.”

Young said, “That’s not governing, so we transfer the power to the president... and the governing body that’s supposed to be leading this country is the United States Congress. They’re not doing it.”

U.S. Senator for Alaska Lisa Murkowski was recently censured by the Alaska Republican Party for her impeachment vote against former president Donald Trump.

While Young said he hopes that she will run for reelection in 2022, he declined to endorse her as a candidate, preferring to let the people make the decision themselves. “I did endorse Dan Sullivan because Mr. Gross (Sullivan’s 2020 opponent) put about $120 million in against in outside money.”

Regarding Alaska’s national delegation, he said, “We have a good team. Do I always agree with all her votes? No. Does she agree with all my votes? No. And that’s the way it should be. I voted not to censure her. I don’t believe in censure. If you don’t like what a person does, just don’t vote for them. It’s that simple.”

Young explained that “for a state with three people, we’ve been rated the top effective delegation in all the states.”

According to Young, the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous people in the U.S. needs to be addressed before a person goes missing. “There is a higher percentage of missing ladies, and I would like to address the issue. After they’re missing, that’s too late. I’d like to figure out how we can prevent the missing, so they’re not missed. Then that we recognize the causes, which we are not doing, and maybe we can stop that high rate of missing Indigenous people.”

Young said progress is being made, but solving the crisis will take a joint effort of the communities, the cities and the villages themselves. “I’d like to see a training program. This sounds kind of weird, but when you have someone come in from outside one of the villages, come into the big city and you get led astray, you’re liable to get in trouble, and maybe that should be explained earlier on when they’re younger. You can avoid it. My father said, ‘You’ll never get in trouble if you’re not where trouble can happen.’”

Young talked about the fight to open Alaska for tourism, saying it’s going “terrible.” He said, “The CDC is a bunch of idiots right up front. They’ve led this COVID-type battle and I think done a bad job, but what they’re doing now to the tourist industry is a crime, and the state has sued them.”

The congressman said, “What they’re insisting upon is not realistic,” adding, “We were supposed to have a million 400 thousand people last year. We got 200 thousand. Think about that. This kills Southeast Alaska. It’s helping kill Fairbanks’ tourist industry, because the volume doesn’t come in.”

According to Young, the CDC has moved the bar for the cruise industry’s operation. “Now they say, ‘Oh, well let’s just sail but only an experimental basis with volunteers to be on board the boat.’ Now how are you going to sell a ticket when they’ve already agreed everyone to get on the boat has to have a vaccination card? They have to be tested on top of the vaccination card.”

“They’re making it so safe, it’s the safest form of transportation yet,” he said. “Because at the beginning of [COVID-]19 they had the instances at Indonesia and Japan where the cruise ships, they call them petri dishes. Well that may have been true, but that was yesterday, and I’m just saying what they’re doing is wrong. It’s doing a terrible harm, not only to the passengers, because they can’t sail, but to the state of Alaska and the tourist industry.”

“You’ve got a group in the CDC sitting behind their little desks, making decisions that affect thousands of lives, not deaths, but lives that are living because they don’t have the employment which comes from those cruise ships, and I’m not happy with the CDC right now,” Young said.

Young is the longest serving current member of Congress and the longest serving Republican in the legislature’s history. He said he still enjoys the work. “I love helping people, helping individuals mostly, and communities, and state, etc. and it gives me a pulpit. That’s very rewarding when I get something done, and if you look at the history, again I have passed more laws than any other congressman in history, signed by 10 different presidents. I’m proud of that.”

He added, however, that the job is hard on the family. “People don’t realize the sacrifice you give up, and I’m not crying about that. I’m just saying it is a different way of living, because you’re on the move all the time, you always have problems, you always have... your people are asking and you try to respond.”

Watch the videos below to catch up on the beginning of our interview.

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