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Last diary of the day, I swear.  You know how we hear politicians talk a lot about "shared sacrifice"?  Well one Senator decided to put his money where his mouth is:

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich is furloughing more than half his staff and giving up part of his salary due to automatic budget cuts known as the sequester, his office said.

Begich is the lone member of Alaska's congressional delegation to furlough staff amid the cuts. Begich also has the highest number of staff among the three-member delegation, at 41.

Spokeswoman Heather Handyside said 26 of Begich's staff will be furloughed for at least two days but perhaps four or more. Furloughed staff won't be paid for the days they're out. Staff members have until the end of September to take their mandatory time off.

Handyside said that if staffers are furloughed for two days, Begich will give back two days' worth of his $174,000 salary. If they're furloughed for four days, it would be the equivalent of four days' pay.

Handyside said travel and printing also have been cut from the budget.

Begich, in a statement, said there's no reason that members of Congress shouldn't feel the financial pinch, like anyone else.

"This won't solve our spending problem on its own, but I hope it is a reminder to Alaskans that I am willing to make the tough cuts, wherever they may be, to get our spending under control," he said. - Anchorage Daily News, 4/4/13

Travel is a big part of Begich's budget because he travels back to Alaska a lot to meet with his constituents:

Seven of the 10 senators who had spent most of their budgets by Sept. 30 are Democrats. Mark Begich of Alaska had about $60,000 left in his budget of just more than $3 million, records show. Travel costs were a major factor, says Amy Miller, spokeswoman for the first-term Democrat.

"We are not over budget and won't be over budget," Miller says. "It is the senator's belief that while in office he should do everything he possibly can to help Alaskans resolve issues involving the federal government. Case work is a high priority for our office, and we hire as many talented people as we can with the resources available to ensure Alaskans get the help they need."

High travel costs between Washington and Alaska and inside Alaska itself is expensive, she says. "Most travel has to be done by air, and it can cost $1,000 or more to travel between two communities in state." - USA Today, 12/25/12

Mark Begich is the only Senator to give back part of his salary to the Treasury and furlough his staff.  Begich's staff has stated that they are cutting $158,000 from his $3.1 million budget.  His staff has also pointed out that Begich has cut his office budget by about $800,000 over the past four years, returning that money to the Treasury.  Begich's colleagues, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R. AK) and Congressman Don Young (R. AK-AL) are not planning any furloughs.  I applaud Senator Begich for going the same route as President Obama, Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth and members of the Obama Administration in helping out federal workers:

Secretary of State John Kerry and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano plan to donate 5 percent of their government pay to charities for employees of their respective agencies, the officials said Thursday.

As we noted in recent stories and blog items, voluntary pay cuts have become a trend as politicians and high-ranking agency officials demonstrate solidarity with federal employees who face furloughs and other cutbacks as a result of the government-wide spending reductions that took effect last month.

To date, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Attorney General Eric Holder, Environmental Protection Agency acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe and various top-level Housing and Urban Development officials have also said they will donate some of their pay to charities or send a portion of their salaries back to the Treasury. - Washington Post, 4/4/13

I hope the good people of Alaska remember this come next year.  Especially since Begich is a top target for Republicans:

Jennifer Duffy, who tracks the Senate for the Cook Political Report in Washington, rates Begich’s re-election bid as leaning in his favor, but she predicts that the race will be a tossup come next fall after a single Republican foe emerges.

“Against a good candidate, he’s going to have a very competitive race,” Duffy said. “It’s up to the Republicans to produce a good candidate.”

“I don’t really want to get in a tit-for-tat with Mark on a bunch of issues,” Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who’s weighing a run against Begich next year, said last month. “But I don’t believe his core votes in the Senate reflect the electorate who put him in it.”

Three other possible GOP candidates – Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, state Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan and 2010 Senate Republican nominee Joe Miller – declined to speak with McClatchy. Former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman said he, too, is weighing a run against Begich. - McClatchy, 4/4/13

I have written quite a bit about Begich from his plan to strengthen Social Security:

I've also written about how he's been great on Native American issues and is calling out the Alaska GOP's efforts to suppress the Native American vote in Alaska:

You may not agree on everything with Begich but he is a true blue public servant who is serious about not wasting taxpayer money and helping out federal workers.  Lets give him the resources he needs to win next year:

Originally posted to pdc on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 06:28 PM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm noticing how since more Democrats are (4+ / 0-)

    doing this and Republicans are remaining silent, the pundit class is starting to pooh pooh this as a meaningless gesture.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 06:49:19 PM PDT

  •  His budget is $3 Million + (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    miracle11, gooderservice, Lujane

    We need to remember that all congresscritters have budgets which we pay for in addition to their salaries, health care subsidies and so many other perks.

    When someone is impatient and says, "I haven't got all day," I always wonder, How can that be? How can you not have all day? George Carlin

    by msmacgyver on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 06:51:21 PM PDT

    •  But the budget is to do the job (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Karl Rover, Nulwee, Lujane

      that we elected them to do. It isn't really a "perk".

      We need to remember that all congresscritters have budgets which we pay for in addition to their salaries, health care subsidies and so many other perks.
      •  The "Perks" are over and above (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lujane, scotths

        salary, benefits and budget which we as taxpayers fund.  

        The "Perks" are those freebies and accommodations which go with the job.  I googled "list of government perks" and could not possibly provide you with all of the links...this is just one:

        Re-reading the highlighted quote you posted I realize that I did not express myself clearly.  I'm aware of many of the benefits which congresscritters receive which are paid for by taxpayers. Like so many others, I'm also aware of the many "perks" which often influence these people to forget exactly who is paying their salaries, subsidizing their health care insurance and retirement benefits.

        When someone is impatient and says, "I haven't got all day," I always wonder, How can that be? How can you not have all day? George Carlin

        by msmacgyver on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 07:45:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I get what you are saying (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          about outside influences. Personally I think that a good salary to congressmen would at least make it possible for them to keep outside money from outside influences to a minimum if they so choose. Reading the article you linked:

          A few comments:

          1) Insider Trading --- The article says "Unless you're a member of Congress. There's absolutely nothing in the Securities and Exchange Commission Act that prevents lawmakers and federal employees from profiting on inside information they learn just doing their jobs." So, point one apparently doesn't apply to members of congress?

          2) Tax Breaks and Bonuses ---  Don't know the details, but those sound fairly minor.

          3) Free travel and trips -- If the trips aren't good use of government money they shouldn't happen. Otherwise, when did we start considering business travel a "perk"? Also, they have a job which requires them to work and oversee staff in 2 different locations. Shouldn't they have free transportation between the two work sites?

          4) Almost half year off for vacation -- This assumes that the only significant job that congresspeople do is what they do when congress is actively holding sessions. This of course ignores all the work that goes on behind the scenes negotiating, overseeing staff, communicating with constituents and others and campaigning (hard to argue that isn't a necessary part of the job!).

          5) They can vote for a pay raise -- True, but they face public backlash if they were to be unreasonable about it. The article cites that in 2010 and 2011 they voted not to take a cost of living increase perhaps for that very reason!

          Shouldn't a job of that importance and with that level of impact have a good salary and access to transportation and other resources so as to allow them to do the job as efficiently as possible? The alternative means that ONLY those with alternative sources of wealth and/or outside backers would be able to be in congress.

          •  I understand your point of view and (0+ / 0-)

            appreciate your responding point by point; however, it is very clear, at least to me, that the question is really not about congresscritters being adequately compensated along with benefits to keep them from being lured away from their elected duties but it is a question of how much is enough.

            Granted, the majority of senators and congressmen/women are independently wealthy so their basic compensation and benefits are almost superflous.  I think that at a time when the Sequester is forcing government agencies to make cuts, I believe that Congress should also be required to slash their budgets.

            More info about congressional spending...on our dime.


            Together, the Sunlight Foundation's three databases of this internal congressional spending -- prepared in coordination with the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call -- show what the House spent on itself in the last six months of 2009 and first three months of 2010. The files provide an unprecedented window on what legislators buy themselves with your money, and AOL News wanted to know what kinds of eye-opening details they might contain. After combing through the info listed in the databases under "House Disbursements Details" (which is distinct from the more general Summary numbers) we found plenty, from the House's bill for bottled water purchases to what it coughed up for new drapes.

            When someone is impatient and says, "I haven't got all day," I always wonder, How can that be? How can you not have all day? George Carlin

            by msmacgyver on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 07:26:44 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  I appreciate Senator Begich's personal "sacrifice" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    of a portion of his salary.

    As a sign of his solidarity with federal workers who will be impacted by sequestration it's commendable.

    Choosing to furlough his staff members is much less impressive. I hope he's allowing each of them to decide for themselves if they can afford to take this action. Otherwise this would amount to "compulsory donations," an oxymoron, in my view.

    Perhaps more detail about the Senator's plan will reveal that his staff members support making this type of symbolic statement. In which case I congratulate both Senator Begich and his team.

    It matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done forever. Henry David Thoreau, in Civil Disobedience

    by Had Enough Right Wing BS on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 04:06:34 AM PDT

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