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Murkowski on budget: No one wants ‘meat cleaver’ approach

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Posted: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 12:05 am

FAIRBANKS — With automatic federal spending cuts set to kick in next month, Sen. Lisa Murkowski answered mostly questions about sequestration during a brief visit with the Fairbanks press corps Monday.

Before the latest self-imposed deadline, she said she hopes Congress can find a more productive approach than voting to delay the sequester.

“Basically, we go from impasse to crisis and then we punt,” she said, speaking to reporters in the Fairbanks North Star Borough assembly chambers. “That’s not governing.”

Her solution to the nation’s budget deficit would not include tax increases and would include a mix of cuts to government departments and programs like Medicare and Social Security, she said. The entitlement programs, she said, could save money by gradually increasing the eligibility age and changing the formula used to calculate inflation.

Two approaches she does not like are letting the sequester happen and a proposal suggested by Senate Democrats that would include equal parts tax increases and spending cuts.

“Nobody likes this meat cleaver approach (the sequester). This is pretty tough medicine,” she said  “I don’t think that’s the best proposal, but I also don’t think that a wise proposal is one-for-one, taxes for cuts. I think it’s time we put some real serious cuts in place.”

Murkowski was briefed last week on what would happen if automatic spending cuts happen.

Alaska would suffer disproportionately because the state ranks third for the per-capita number of federal employees and ranks second in its ratio of in-state military spending to gross domestic product. Alaska also is 60 percent federal land and has the highest percentage of military veterans in the country she said.

A tax increase should not be part of a budget deal this month because Congress already approved a tax increase last month as part of a budget deal on Dec. 31 that moved the sequester deadline to March 1.

The sequestration is part of bill Congress approved in August 2011 to reduce the deficit. The cuts were designed as a way to force Congress to find a way to reduce the deficit.

Murkowski was in Fairbanks for the Senate’s Presidents Day recess. Her trip to Alaska also included a military event in Anchorage and some skiing in Girdwood.

Contact staff writer Sam Friedman at 459-7545.

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