U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, addresses a joint session of the Alaska Legislature in the House chamber with Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, and House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham on Tuesday. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, addresses a joint session of the Alaska Legislature in the House chamber with Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, and House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham on Tuesday. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

Murkowski: ‘Do what’s good for Alaska’

Coming from deeply partisan Washington, senator tells local lawmakers to be better

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, has a message for the state’s lawmakers: it’s time to move past partisanship and toward solutions.

Speaking to the Alaska Legislature at the Capitol Tuesday, Murkowski said the current environment in Washington was one of the most bitter and divided of her career.

Murkowski, one of Alaska’s two Republican senators, is often considered a moderate in Washington and in her address to the Legislature said she felt worn down by “one of the darkest, most partisan experiences of (her) career.”

Murkowski made national headlines earlier this month when she voted to acquit President Trump in his impeachment trial but then on the floor of the Senate made a speech excoriating the president, partisanship in the House and Senate, and the media for what she said was the sad state of national institutions.

Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, left, and Sen. Donny Olson, D-Golovin, speak with U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska in the halls of the Alaska Capitol on Tuesday. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, left, and Sen. Donny Olson, D-Golovin, speak with U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska in the halls of the Alaska Capitol on Tuesday. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

“As we went further down the partisan pit, I realized my vote would do nothing but drag us down and the judiciary with us,” she told the Legislature.

Murkowski told reporters after her speech she disliked many of the things the president has done, such as taking money already appropriated by Congress to fund construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. But, she said, there were many things the president has done she believed were good for the country and the state.

“I think that many of the policies that have come out of this administration have been good,” Murkowski told reporters. “The (United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement), we don’t talk about that here in Alaska.”

Asked if she saw any parallels between the effort to impeach the president and the campaign to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy, Murkowski warned about letting the kind of partisanship that exists in Washington come to Alaska.

“I think about what we have just gone through with the impeachment,” Murkowski said, “it’s allowed for a schism that has made legislating challenging. You’ve got to work with the president that you’ve got.”

She lauded members of the Alaska House of Representatives who have formed a bipartisan caucus.

“I fear greater political divide. Impeachment divided us straight down the middle. I hope we are better than the example that has been set in Washington, D.C.,” she said.

Her speech was not all focused on the division in Washington. She repeated several times in her speech there were many examples of politicians moving past debate and onto solutions.

All the female members of the Alaska State Legislature with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, in the House Speaker’s Chambers at the Alaska Capitol on Tuesday. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

All the female members of the Alaska State Legislature with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, in the House Speaker’s Chambers at the Alaska Capitol on Tuesday. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

She said she was working on a number of clean-energy bills that could help bring low cost power to Alaska’s rural communities. One of those energy sources she wanted to bring to the state was nuclear power. Not large reactors that could power an entire city, but smaller generators that could power small communities, military outposts or resource development projects.

She said it’s important to transition to clean energy and limit the state’s carbon footprint, but she is troubled by people who called for the immediate end of fossil fuel use.

“The very last drop of oil that the world uses should come from Alaska’s North Slope,” she told the Legislature.

Development of Alaska’s resources is critical to the state’s future, Murkowski said, which is why she worked with the Trump administration to exempt the Tongass National Forest from the Roadless Rule. That decision was not about timber, she said, but about reasonable access to resources and infrastructure for island communities.

Murkowski also stressed the importance of the Alaksa Marine Highway System.

“Highways include a Marine Highway, it’s just as simple as that,” she said to a round of applause from lawmakers.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, speaks with reporters following her address to the Alaska Legislature on Tuesday. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, speaks with reporters following her address to the Alaska Legislature on Tuesday. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

Murkowski said there were several highway funding bills working their way through Congress that will appropriate money for the AMHS.

Speaking to reporters following the speech, Murkowski admitted that currently the amount of federal money available for ferries was not much, roughly $18 million. But, she said, she would be working to get access to certain federal accounts that could get funding for operation maintenance.

It was up the the Legislature to decide what a sustainable ferry system would look like but said the ferry system was “absolutely critical.”

Murkowski urged Alaska’s lawmakers not to spend their energy trying to tear each other down. She ended her speech by saying not a day goes by when she doesn’t think of a quote from the late Ted Stevens, “To hell with politics, do what’s good for Alaska.”

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or psegall@juneauempire.com.

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