ECON 919 - Sen. Lisa Murkowski and the state budget

Aug 23, 2019

The U.S. Senate is on recess this month and Senator Lisa Murkowski has been making the rounds across the state, including stops on the Kenai. Last week, she was in Soldotna to speak with the Alaska Municipal League.


As she spoke to mayors, managers and assembly members from around the state, the focus was much more on infrastructure in Alaska and some of the roadblocks that are in the way, not least of which is a budget mess in Juneau that Murkowski didn’t lay directly at the feet of the governor, but it was in the neighborhood.

“I...have no magic wand. And I feel like that’s what we’re hoping and praying for in some parts of the state.”

So what that means is, insofar as the Alaska’s three Republican delegates to Washington can send some money back home, they will. 

“I think it is critically important that we can be that stabilizer. We know that Alaska’s economy, about one third of what we enjoy and appreciate here comes from the federal government...so we know that our role is key and it is certainly key right now when we know there is a lot of flux at the state level.”

She says the federal budget will be supported with a continuing resolution. Not really the best way to do your books for the year, but she says in essence, it’s something everyone can agree on, and it takes the gamesmanship out using appropriations as political tools. But, it can also limit the special projects that some previous Alaska politicians working in Washington were known for.

“I’m not afraid to use the word earmark, but we still can’t use the word earmark (in Washington). These are challenges, it doesn’t mean they’re not possible, but it means we’re more limited this year as it relates to the appropriations process.”

Unsurprisingly, Murkowski says one thing the federal government can do, is get out of the way of burgeoning businesses, like Alaska’s almost three year old cannabis industry. The vote for legalization was one she says she didn’t support, but, she also doesn’t want to stand in its way. She’s one of four Republican senators, also including Dan Sullivan, co-sponsoring a bipartisan bill to allow cannabis businesses to operate with the financial tools available to every other kind of business.

“The question is…can I take that cash from the marijuana vendor and deposit that. Am I risking the rest of my assets? This is an awful system we have in place in this state right now.” (0:32)

 

She says the bill she’s co-sponsoring is picking up steam, as is the effort to remove cannabis from the list of schedule one banned substances, but she doesn’t see either happening this year.

This week’s number: 8 

That’s how many public meetings are scheduled for the fedral energy regulatory commission to hear about the draft environmental impact statement on the AK LNG project. Just one will happen in Nikiski, on September 11, from 5-8 pm at the rec center.

 

Completing that environmental review is the last big thing on the checklist for this latest effort to bring natural gas to market from the North Slope. The state agency that had been in charge will run out of money later this year and the project could be taken over by private companies, if a suitable market for north slope gas can ever be found.