Anchorage Daily News: Murkowski touts money for Alaska projects in bipartisan infrastructure bill
A trillion-dollar bipartisan infrastructure proposal in Congress contains large amounts of funding to improve Alaska highways, water and wastewater systems, broadband services and other facilities, Sen. Lisa Murkowksi, R-Alaska, said on Thursday.
Murkowski, part of a 10-member group of Republicans and Democrats who helped fashion the proposal, said it will especially support states like Alaska that have lagged behind in basic facilities.
“We’ve really focused on ensuring that those parts of the country that have been under-resourced, that have a higher need, are receiving a level of funding that is just really quite unprecedented,” she said.
The proposal includes $550 million in new federal investment in infrastructure without raising taxes, as well as streamlined permitting procedures, according to Murkowski’s office.
The Senate advanced the measure 67-32 in a procedural vote on Wednesday, with more votes yet to come. However, the legislation is not yet drafted, leading a number of Republicans, including Sen. Dan Sullivan, also R-Alaska, to hold back their support. Sullivan was one of the “no” votes on Wednesday.
He “is still waiting to see full details of the bill,” said Mike Reynard, Sullivan’s communications director.
That language is being completed and made available to all senators quickly, Murkowski said.
The proposal, supported by President Joe Biden, will inject more than $180 million into Alaska for water and wastewater funding, bringing running water to some rural communities and improving service in others, Murkowski said.
It will be part of a “once in a lifetime” effort to improve sanitation services nationally, she said.
“We know we have far too many communities that are still unserved or underserved,” she said.
Murkowski listed other items that she said will benefit Alaska, including:
• $4.3 billion over five years to help build, repair and maintain the state’s highway system, which includes close to 600 miles in poor condition.
• A state-apportioned share of some $30 billion for bridge construction and upgrades, to help address 141 bridges in Alaska classified as structurally deficient.
• Funding to increase electric vehicle use, including funding that could lead to the use of electric or hybrid vessels for the state ferry system.
• A minimum allocation to states of $100 million for broadband deployment, as well as tribal funding for broadband grants.
• Efforts to reduce permitting timelines for some projects, including for development of critical minerals that are largely imported and used in computers and renewable energy.
The measure also includes funding for ports, airports, fire prevention, public-use cabins, cleanup of old federal oil and gas wells like those on the North Slope, and other items that will help Alaska, Murkowski said.
Other specific benefits for Alaska are still being identified, she said.
Murkowski emphasized that the measure deals with physical infrastructure, such as roads, bridges and wastewater. She distinguished it from what she called the “soft infrastructure” measure that Democrats are pursuing, a separate, $3.5 trillion proposal, which would include spending on family-service programs, climate change and other more progressive priorities.
“This is not going to be a situation where (Democrats) will go back in and add to what has already been agreed to in this hard infrastructure package,” she said. “I can’t predict to you what is going to come in the wholly partisan bill, other than I can predict that it will be a level of spending that I believe will be reckless.”
By: Alex DeMarban
Source: Anchorage Daily News