Alaskans applauded when the late Ted Stevens secured billions of dollars for Alaska over his 40 years in the U.S. Senate.
Stevens was all about Alaska from the day he stepped foot in the Senate in 1968 until his departure in 2008.
He often disregarded politics while keeping a keen eye on what was “right for Alaska.”
Congressman Don Young, who served in the House since 1973 and largely throughout Stevens’ tenure, shares Stevens’ view, as does Dan Sullivan, Alaska’s junior senator. The job is to serve Alaska.
Lisa Murkowski, a born and raised Alaskan, has the same priority.
“I will work with anyone from either party to advance Alaska priorities,” Murkowski told reporters when she announced her bid for re-election this week.
Alaska’s trio in Congress voted several days ago for the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed by both legislative bodies and sent to President Joe Biden for his signature.
The bill is expected to inject millions into Alaska where it will build infrastructure and throughout the Lower 48 to rebuild infrastructure, a part used by and for Alaskans shipping to and from Alaska or while traveling in other states.
Sen. Murkowski and 10 other Republican senators worked with the Senate’s Democratic majority to write the bill; Congressman Young worked with his colleagues and President Biden, and all with the intent of gaining federal funds for Alaska.
And, despite their’s and Sen. Sullivan’s concerns about aspects of the bill, all agreed that the benefits for Alaska outweigh those worries.
The bill will pay out over the next five years, helping Alaska to build and rebuild in terms of its potential effect following the economic challenges brought by the response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The bill directs dollars to all manner of infrastructure, but particular to Southeast, the Alaska Marine Highway System. Of specific interest is funding for an electric ferry pilot program. The program comes as the system aims to reduce operational cost and, as a result, increase viability, and with it its freight business and ridership, which could result in a fuller sailing schedule.
The bill also addresses permitting reforms proposed by Murkowski. The reforms could lead to the reduction in U.S. dependance on foreign minerals. It also could increase the feasibility of mining minerals in southern Southeast Alaska. Extracting minerals would create jobs, grow industry, and diversify and assist in stabilizing Southeast communities economically.
The bill directs millions of dollars to Alaska for infrastructure that ranges from mining and transportation to airports, ports, harbors, energy, broadband, water and wastewater — all affecting most of Alaska’s communities.
This is a massive accomplishment for Alaska and Alaskans. The congressional delegation’s unanimous support of it speaks to that.
But all three emphasize their effort and support for the bill isn’t a prelude to the $3.5 trillion spending package being pushed by congressional Democrats. Perhaps, in regard to the two bills, the difference is between need, as infrastucture clearly is, and the other package with its pricetag that appears to indicate greed.
Alaska’s congressional delegation knows the difference. It has delivered, Stevens’ style.