June 25

By Liz Ruskin

Lisa Murkowski and nine other U.S. senators Thursday announced they have an agreement with the White House for a $950 billion infrastructure bill.

It includes $312 billion for transportation projects, $65 billion for broadband, and $55 billion for ports and waterways.

One line-item in particular could breathe new life into the Alaska Marine Highway System: “$7.5 billion to fund low carbon and electric buses and ferries.”

Murkowski has been pressing the idea of electric ferries for months. She said she’s partially responsible for ensuring that ferries were specifically included.

“I will absolutely take full credit for educating all of my colleagues that not in all places in America do people move around on roads,” she said. “That in some places, ferries are an important part of our highway system.”

Murkowski said electric ferries are working in Norway. She said they could beef up the Alaska ferry system and attract more riders.

“What can we be doing to not only make (Alaska ferries) more accessible, more affordable, but also more clean?” she said. “And and if we can do this, I think this is how you build out something like the Alaska Marine Highway System.”

The infrastructure deal announced Thursday relies on unspent COVID money and bolsters the Internal Revenue Service to enforce tax collection, among other funding sources. It does not raise taxes on the rich or on corporations, as President Biden wanted. About $600 billion of the agreement is considered “new.”

Murkowski said she knows there will be criticism by those who don’t like government spending. She calls it a responsible investment.

“So when you want to talk about a strong economy, whether it’s a strong economy for Alaska, or a strong economy for your country, you’ve got to have basic infrastructure,” she said. “And if you think that this is just something that Lisa is saying you need, you need to look at what is going on in the rest of the world, in terms of those investments that other nations are making to be competitive.”

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan’s press secretary Nate Adams said Sullivan is reviewing the outline of spending and revenue sources that the negotiations produced.

“Sen. Sullivan has long emphasized that any infrastructure package must be bipartisan in nature, so he is pleased to see the outline of a deal come together,” Adams said in an email.

Writing an actual bill based on the agreement could take weeks.