Here’s why both Alaska senators say they voted for the $1 trillion infrastructure bill
By Alex DeMarban
Both of Alaska’s senators voted for the $1 trillion infrastructure bill on Tuesday, a sweeping proposal aimed at making needed upgrades to roads, broadband, water systems and other projects across the country, including a number of investments in Alaska.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan joined 17 of their Republican colleagues, but broke with 30 other Republican senators, who raised concerns about the growing national debt.
Support from Murkowski was expected — she was part of a bipartisan group of 10 senators who helped create the measure. She issued a statement saying the legislation will benefit Alaska for decades to come.
“Investments in repairing, maintaining, and upgrading our infrastructure such as roads, rails, and bridges will create safer communities,” Murkowski said. “We invest in transportation infrastructure that are a lifeline to connecting Alaskan communities — such as our Alaska Marine Highway System, ferries, ports, and small airports. Through this bill we address our lack of basic energy and wastewater infrastructure to meet vital needs. We also provide support to strengthen broadband.”
”I pushed for a number of initiatives we included to address our energy infrastructure needs by enabling important projects to advance which will help communities see more affordable, clean energy,” she said. “I’m proud to have worked on this bipartisan effort in crafting this bill.”
Sullivan had previously voted “No” in procedural votes to advance the measure in Senate.
But he supported the measure Tuesday, and issued a lengthy statement explaining his position.
Sullivan said his support for the bill was difficult. He said the measure is imperfect, in part because it funds projects that in some cases don’t support “core American infrastructure,” and it contains provisions he doesn’t support.
He said he’s concerned with excess government spending. (The Congressional Budget Office has said the measure would increase deficits by $256 billion over the decade.)
But Sullivan’s statement said the infrastructure bill appropriates $550 billion over five years in new investments in infrastructure without raising taxes.
“Despite these and other problems with this bill, on balance, I believe the benefits to Alaskans and the overall focus on physical infrastructure, like roads, ports, broadband, and water and sewer, and the jobs and opportunities this will create for Alaskans, outweigh my serious concerns about other negative aspects of this bill,” he said.
Sullivan said the investments in Alaska, with its limited road system and broadband service, would help address the state’s “historic deficit in infrastructure.” The measure would streamline project permitting efforts, something Sullivan has supported, he said in the statement.
”It has very significant funding for Alaska roads, water systems, ports, airports, our ferry system, bridges, and Coast Guard infrastructure. It also contains historic funding for broadband build-out in Alaska, which will help our fellow Alaskans in terms of education, telehealth, and small business opportunities, and it has billions of dollars in federal loan guarantees for the Alaska natural gasline — a step toward unlocking our massive reserves of natural gas for the benefit of Alaskans, our country, and our allies overseas.”
Sullivan also said the bill will help the U.S. compete with the economic and security challenges presented by China.
“America cannot have crumbling roads, bridges and ports if we are going to continue to lead the world economy,” he said.
Both senators criticized a $3.5 trillion bill pursued by Democrats that would include spending on family-service programs, climate change and other more progressive priorities.
Each has called the measure “reckless.” Sullivan said on Tuesday he will “fight like hell to ensure it does not pass.”