Alaska Beacon: In annual address to Alaska Legislature, Murkowski points to ‘hope on the horizon’

Alaska is behind the rest of the country on housing, education and child care, Alaska’s senior senator told the Alaska Legislature on Thursday.

“But when you step back, you step back and look at things, there’s a lot going well in our state right now,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

Murkowski’s annual address to the Legislature “was a downer in some places,” the senator told reporters afterward, but sought to emphasize good things that have been overlooked as the state focuses on its problems.

In the past year, Alaska has seen work begin at the new Willow and Pikka oil fields on the North Slope, and there are more than 4,000 new construction jobs in the region.

“When was the last time we could point to numbers like that for anything in our state?” Murkowski said.

There’s also been progress on Graphite One, a major graphite mine planned for the Seward Peninsula, she said. The Biden administration closed a gap in its seafood embargo of Russia, something that benefits Alaska. Billions of dollars is being spent to upgrade internet connections in Alaska, and more infrastructure money is coming to the state, Murkowski said.

“More than $7.2 billion has been announced for Alaska under our bipartisan infrastructure law — the most per capita in the United States,” she said.

Coupled with the continued post-COVID pandemic rebound in tourism, Alaska has a great deal of potential, Murkowski said, even though it — and the United States as a whole — faces an extraordinary number of challenges.

Murkowski said she’s worried about foreign threats — in the Middle East, from Russia and from China — and she’s worried about domestic disharmony during a presidential election season that features “two deeply flawed candidates set to lead their party tickets.”

Asked after the speech about that line, Murkowski said her disagreements with Republican frontrunner Donald Trump are already well-known, and she’s also disappointed with Democratic President Joe Biden.

She said she hopes Republican candidate Nikki Haley would somehow “come from behind and rock the whole stage.”

“I, for one, wish that with all of the extraordinary talent we have in this country that we have, all of the leadership that we have, that we have more choices as Americans,” she said.

If Alaska wants to fix its problems, solutions will have to come from within the state, Murkowski said.

She said that while she won’t advise the Legislature on pension bills or the proper amount of the state’s per-student funding formula, she would advise legislators to make the most of their opportunities.

Murkowski asked legislators to provide state funds needed to unlock federal grants for electrical infrastructure, to invest in education and the University of Alaska, and to make investments that improve the state’s quality of life, encouraging people to live here.

She remarked on a trip she took to the Southeast Alaska town of Wrangell in December, shortly after a landslide killed six people. Community members pulled together after the disaster, she said.

“Even in the face of hard things, of some sad and awful things, there is a strength, there is a goodness in our people. This year is a good year to find that strength and look for that goodness," she said. 

By:  James Brooks
Source: Alaska Beacon