Alaska Dispatch: Murkowski on gas, Palin, and health care reform

The health care bill didn't do much to fix costs, we need some kind of gas line, and it doesn't look like Sarah Palin will be a big part of this year's re-election campaign. At least, that was the gist of a conversation Sen. Lisa Murkowski had with reporters in her Anchorage office Tuesday morning.

Murkowski said she doesn't think the health care bill signed last week will deliver the benefits it promises; the main problem, she said, is its failure to address costs. Murkowski voted against the bill.

"We haven't done anything to drive down the cost," she said. She cited an Institute of Social and Economic Research study that predicted Alaska insurance premiums will increase by 10 to 13 percent. She also has concerns that the bill violates the Constitution.

"I happen to think that we have perhaps crossed that constitutional boundary," she said.

At the same time, Murkowski said she's troubled by some of the violent reactions to the bill's passage, specifically mentioning last weekend's vandalism of the Democratic Party Headquarters (which party leaders believe may have been spurred by the bill) and calling such acts "absolutely wrong."

When it comes to energy, Alaskans have made it clear that they want access to the state's natural gas, Murkowski said. While she doesn't know where the Legislature is headed or how the upcoming open seasons will shake out, she supports any project that would get gas to Alaskans and to market.

"You've got two things playing out, and with both of them the calendar is your enemy," Murkowski said, referring to AGIA and the bullet line.

Asked about Alaska's other nationally-prominent Republican woman, Murkowski said she doesn't expect former governor Sarah Palin to be involved her re-election campaign. Palin has identified some Lower 48 races as where she wants to be.

"Ours isn't as controversial as some of the others," Murkowski said.

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Source: By Joshua Saul. Originally published March 30, 2011