In the last week of February, all three members of Alaska’s Congressional delegation visited the Juneau Empire to speak with the Empire’s editorial board. Where reporters write the daily news articles you read, the editorial board (which includes the Empire’s publisher, its editor, and the editor of the Capital City Weekly) is in charge of the editorials that run on the opinion page of the paper.
The editorial board is charged with picking the topics of those editorials, then writing them. The board occasionally hosts specialists in order to become informed about a specific topic. It has hosted fisheries leaders, the potential new owners of AEL&P and politicians.
In the interest of transparency (and for your edification), the Empire is publishing the transcripts of its conversations with Rep. Don Young, Sen. Dan Sullivan, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski. The transcripts for our conversations with Sullivan and Murkowski are printed here. We have previously published the conversation with Young.
It’s not something we’ve done before, but we think it’s a good experiment to try. The Empire and other newspapers used to run the text of major national (and state) speeches, and the paper believes publishing these transcripts follows in this tradition.
Read Don Young’s transcript here.
Dan Sullivan, Feb. 26
Emily Miller: [00:00:01] Yeah. How’s your trip to Alaska so far?
Dan Sullivan: [00:00:03] Great.
Emily Miller: [00:00:03] You’ve got one day?
Dan Sullivan: [00:00:05] So, well, I did. So you know we had recess, got out on Friday. So I came home Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday. Then I linked up with this CODEL (Congressional delegation) in Asia. And you know, it’s a pretty important CODEL. You know, I mentioned Senator McCain is really struggling with brain cancer.
Emily Miller: [00:00:26] Right.
Dan Sullivan: [00:00:26] Which is, you know, really sad.
Dan Sullivan: [00:00:27] I’m very close with him. The senator who is currently the chairman, acting chairman, of Armed Services, Senator Inhofe, from Oklahoma, he led this CODEL. And, you know, I focus a lot on the Asia-Pacific and they were interested in trying to get me to go. And I said I’ll meet you halfway. But on one condition: The condition that we end it in Alaska.
Dan Sullivan: [00:00:55] So we ended it yesterday and we had a really good day bringing them up. So, anyways, I’ll just open up real quick and whatever you guys, whatever you guys want to talk about, I’m open for it, just let me look at my little cheat sheet.
Emily Miller: [00:01:13] Sure, go for it.
Dan Sullivan: [00:01:14] But, so, you know, hopefully you guys see it and I think you probably do more than most. I actually, as I mentioned, this is the most important speech I give every year because it connects with the legislature, and if we’re not working together it’s harder to get things done.
Dan Sullivan: [00:01:36] If you looked at my previous speeches, you know this one I tried to step back a little bit more and kind of lay out a vision, which I think sometimes everybody who’s in elected office can be hard to do.
Dan Sullivan: [00:01:50] Hard to do if you’re a U.S. senator or a state senator kind of like because you’ve got so many things in front of you, but to take the time to say look what’s kind of an optimistic vision that’s realistic? And then what are we doing to actually make progress on that? And I think hopefully, if you watch the speech, I was trying to put some concrete meat on the bones of what we’ve been trying to do. It wasn’t kind of a false optimism. It’s very heartfelt. As I mentioned in the press conference, you know Senator Murkowski and I and our staffs work like this daily back in D.C. but we don’t coordinate on these speeches at all. And I know she kind of talked about optimism, and I had an op-ed —
Emily Miller: [00:02:32] Next year, you’ve got to get there first.
Dan Sullivan: [00:02:36] I had an op-ed at the end of the beginning of this year — it ran in the Empire, right — that was all about optimism. It kind of repeated some of this stuff.
Dan Sullivan: [00:02:44] But I will tell you that, and I didn’t do this on purpose, but if you look at kind of a lot of what I’m focused on in D.C., a lot of my speech did have a Southeast focus, whether it was on transboundary mining — where we made a lot of progress and I can go into detail if you’d like —whether we talked about my ocean debris bill, which I’m pretty confident is going to pass the House and become law. The real big story here — it’s not like a burning one — but that I’m really focused on, it’s a long-term one it’s not — but like the recapitalization of the Coast Guard. What that means for our communities: more assets. We’re doing it. I’m the chairman of the committee. My guys wrote the Coast Guard reauthorization bill, and we’re trying to, you know, get passed through the Senate. So that has a lot of upside for our state particularly down here. So, then, you know what I’m doing today is what I always do here — press — but also just meeting with Democrats, Republicans in the legislature. You know, for me it’s just kind of the way time goes on. When I first gave my first address four years ago, I literally knew every single member of the legislature, like, well because I had been attorney general and DNR Commissioner for five years. So I mean, you know, I was down here all the time, and now it’s a little — you know, they’re new faces and maybe I’m older — and then to introduce my team, right?
Dan Sullivan: [00:04:26] I’ve got a great team, but some of my team is relatively new, but they all got good, good deep Alaska collections. So it’s been a good trip so far anyway.
Dan Sullivan: [00:04:36] So, anyways.
Matt Shuckerow: [00:04:39] Open it up for questions. We’re kind of short on time, so.
[00:04:39] Sounds good. Well, transboundary mines. The TCM has been leaching acid mine drainage for 60 years. What can you do to help it clean up or pressure the Canadians ?
Dan Sullivan: [00:04:49] Trust me, it was top top of the list on what the lieutenant governor and I were asking for. Top of the list.
Emily Miller: [00:04:58] What did you ask for?
[00:05:00] We asked for them to reclaim that and essentially stop it. To take action, right? Not just, you know, British Columbia: Get the federal government in charge of doing it. I thought it was a very reasonable ask, and we asked for more transparency into the process. As you look at, and you guys know better than anybody how many mines are along this part of the border between Canada and the U.S., and I emphasized — look, I’m not anti-resource development . I’m pro-resource development, but these are very legitimate requests. We asked for joining the federal government of the U.S. EPA and State Department in a baseline water assessment that they should be helping to fund. Our federal government is on board on that. And then, additional bonding and financial assurances in the event — God forbid — you had some kind of Mount Polley accident. So these were the requests. As I mentioned in my remarks, I think it was powerful that it was me and the lieutenant governor showing unity. And importantly — and you guys have written about it — but the feds and the State Department now are way more energized and for whatever reason I don’t know why Secretary John Kerry really blew us off on that. He just didn’t give the Alaska the time of day. And Rex Tillerson’s State Department you’ve probably seen — we can get you the letters — but they’re they’re engaged. So we went in; we weren’t rude or anything, but — and we had very senior level meetings: Environment Minister, head of the Coast Guard, Natural Resources minister, defense minister. You know I even raised this with the defense minister — and I don’t think it’s his portfolio, but the Arctic and native indigenous peoples minister.
[00:07:12] I had a kind of strategy meeting with our ambassador before the night before. And, so, look, I think, I think they know we’re serious and that request to me is a no-brainer.
Emily Miller: [00:07:31] And what was their response to it? Was it tepid, or …
Dan Sullivan: [00:07:33] I think they are seeing the seriousness with which we view this. And I think somewhat hey feel somewhat defensive.
Dan Sullivan: [00:07:44] The Environment Minister, you know, when I pushed — and she’s got this very, you know, she’s considered like a real prominent politician in Canada and maybe the next prime minister, and a lot of her emphasis and focus is on a clean healthy environment, and I’m like good, Roger that. Let’s make it happen.
Dan Sullivan: [00:08:05] And then she tried to — in our little discussion — tried to kind of equate them spilling toxic waste into the Taku River as somewhat analogous to us opening ANWR with the Porcupine Caribou herd which I utterly completely rejected and told her that that analogy just didn’t work.
Dan Sullivan: [00:08:27] So we’re going to continue, but I think having the feds — our feds — be interested, active and helpful will also get their attention. I don’t think it can be solved overnight. You mentioned has been going on for decades but, you know, I don’t think those are unreasonable requests at all.
Emily Miller: [00:08:48] OK. We’ll switch off if you want to go for the next one.
James Brooks: [00:08:52] Sure. In your speech you mentioned the NOAA issue.
Dan Sullivan: [00:08:58] Yeah. Oh, by the way, that’s the other Southeast issue I forgot to mention.
James Brooks: [00:09:01] Moving NOAA facilities from presumably Seattle, Oregon, we’re talking about, up to Alaska.
Dan Sullivan: [00:09:08] Yeah.
James Brooks: [00:09:08] That’s been one of the things that the CBJ here in Juneau has been asking for and pushing for for a long time. Do you see that as moving specifically to Juneau? What’s your vision?.
Dan Sullivan: [00:09:18] Well so, first the vision is to kind of halt the brain drain.
Dan Sullivan: [00:09:24] And you know as I mentioned the subcommittee on the Commerce Committee that I chair is Coast Guards, it’s fisheries, it’s NOAA. So, you know, as you get you get to — In those positions, you start learning, you started coming out here. Last time I was in Juneau just a couple of months ago we went out to the Ted Stevens research facility, which is a beautiful facility, but in my kind of role as the top senator overseeing NOAA, I started to see this theme of, like almost everywhere I went, where there was this migration of the research and the minds and the assets for NOAA that over the years — and I’m not sure why — they’ve migrated to the lower 48: Seattle, Portland, and yet these are almost all Alaska-focused mission sets.
Dan Sullivan: [00:10:30] Well, you know, I don’t think if there was a federal government research center on the Grand Canyon that senator who wasn’t from Arizona wouldn‘t tolerate — who was from Arizona, would tolerate, you know, that being in Idaho.
Dan Sullivan: [00:10:46] And yet, for example, the fair - - the Fairweather, which is a NOAA research vessel, legally is supposed to be homeport e d in Ketchikan. It’s in Oregon.
Dan Sullivan: [00:10:58] The big Alaska Fisheries Research Center is focused on the Alaskan fisheries. It’s headquartered in Seattle.
Dan Sullivan: [00:11:09] This one really surprised me: This summer, I’m very focused on this issue of ocean debris. And our bill I talked about in my speech. So the head of the NOAA ocean debris program is in Maryland.
Dan Sullivan: [00:11:21] OK. I mean there’s probably a lot of reasons for that.
Emily Miller: [00:11:26] Chesapeake.
Dan Sullivan: [00:11:26] Yeah, Chesapeake. But this summer — and she testified in a hearing that I put on ocean debris — But this summer I met her in Alaska, and she brought with her the head and director of the Alaska oceans debris program for NOAA, and I literally am like, Oh great. Where are you? Are you here in Anchorage or Juneau? And the guy’s headquartered in Seattle. So I had a long, long, long discussion with the incoming NOAA director and his deputy and got commitments from the secretary of commerce that, you know, you guys need to dig into this and work with me to reverse it. Because I don’t think it’s, you know, I don’t think that — I don’t know why this has happened.
Dan Sullivan: [00:12:19] I’m kind of beyond researching that, but I know it’s happened. And then, as I mentioned in my speech, that can be the basis for a much more kind of scientific center, the hub of research for Alaska. I mean, NOAA is a great agency. I love NOAA, but if they’re doing Alaska-focused missions, they need to be doing it in Alaska.
Emily Miller: [00:12:44] Are you worried about, um, let me — I brought this actually, a little — I thought you might like to see this, actually. James did an infographic for us on North Korea and the trajectory —
James Brooks: [00:12:57] From back in July. From the — not their latest long-range missile but the one —.
Dan Sullivan: [00:13:05] Damn. Was this today?
Emily Miller: [00:13:05] No.
James Brooks: [00:13:06] No, that was from July 4th.
Emily Miller: [00:13:07] This is last year.
Dan Sullivan: [00:13:08] Yeah, you’ve been all over this. It’s good, thank God.
Emily Miller: [00:13:13] It’s basically showing, Anchorage, Fairbanks, you know — so I’m just curious you know, with especially Trump’s tweets on North Korea, how concerned are you?
Dan Sullivan: [00:13:22] Well, look, I’m less concerned about the president’s tweets than I am about Kim Jong Un’s desire to get an intercontinental ballistic nuclear missile.
Dan Sullivan: [00:13:32] And I’m very concerned about one thing, and I, you know, I think this is kind of what you guys would hopefully see is how legislation is supposed to work is that, you know, not soon after getting elected to the Senate, I started folks on this. I started going to see the intel agencies on this. You know, what’s the timing? What did they think?
Dan Sullivan: [00:13:56] And I started giving speeches, you know, over two years ago about, hey, this, this threat might be on our doorstep sooner than we think. Our meaning not just Alaska but Chicago or New York City.
Dan Sullivan: [00:14:09] And so my team and I sat down with all the experts, all of them, on missile defense: the generals, the think tanks, the policy guys — and women — and we put together a really serious bill.
Dan Sullivan: [00:14:25] I’ve briefed you guys on it before. Called — last year around this time we introduced it — called the Advancing America’s Missile Defense Act of 2017.
Dan Sullivan: [00:14:34] And the big breakthrough, as I mentioned in the Q and A during the legislature, is we — and I tried really hard to do this — is it was a bipartisan bill.
Dan Sullivan: [00:14:42] So missile defense has, has kind of been parsed — and just to be perfectly honest — and so Reagan builds it up. Clinton doesn’t. George Bush builds it up. Obama cuts it, right? And so that you you don’t have the sustainability. So the big breakthrough on our bill was it was very bipartisan.
Dan Sullivan: [00:15:04] I had twenty-eight cosponsors, original cosponsors, then — eight of whom were Democrats — some of those liberal Democrats in the Senate, some of the most conservative Republicans in the Senate. And it passed. Pretty much the entire bill it got put in as part of the National Defense Authorization Act this year. And we — and then we got it funded.
Dan Sullivan: [00:15:29] So you know everybody’s been focused on the C.R. There was a continuing resolution in December that had a slug of $4.2 billion — Very bipartisan — that passed. That was essentially the money to build up the missile defense that was part of my bill. And that includes, you know, a brand new field at Fort Greely. So we were just out there yesterday with all these senators and congressmen.
Dan Sullivan: [00:15:57] So, I think that, to me, is really important. We see the threat. We work on it with the experts. We get a bill passed and we get it funded on a critical thing for missile defense. It also will help with jobs and the economy in Alaska. But, um, that gives whoever’s the president time. If Kim Jong un is really threatening us and we have the ability to say, hey look, you lob one, two , three, or four of these we’re going to shoot them all down and then massively retaliate against you.
Dan Sullivan: [00:16:31] I think even if you’re crazy you probably don’t want to take those on. So strengthening our missile defense, which is what this bill does — and we’ll give you all the details on it — helps in this challenge. The one other thing, which is a little bit more —
Dan Sullivan: [00:16:49] I’ve been doing this — I think you guys have reported on it — but you know I’ve been saying — and just being on the region — There’s no doubt this administration is doing more on sanctions, more on economically isolating the, what they call the, what’s … the massive pressure campaign?
Matt Shuckerow: [00:17:11] The maximum pressure campaign.
Dan Sullivan: [00:17:12] Maximum pressure campaign. Which they’ve made a lot of progress on. Of course, any diplomacy, if it’s going to be effective, has to be backed by credible military options. We met with a lot of the military leaders on this trip. And I support, you know, having these options being readied. But what I have told the administration both publicly and privately. More publicly than privately. Is, you know, if one of these is a preemptive military attack by the United States on the Korean Peninsula, that’s Article 1 power of the Congress that needs to authorize that.
Dan Sullivan: [00:17:57] You don’t, President Trump, or others, have that authority. You’ll have to come get it from us. And I think that’s important and I think — well, I don’t think, I know I’ve been probably the most vocal Republican on that issue in the Senate.
James Brooks: [00:18:15] And to follow up on that particular issue, one of the questions we had is how likely do you think there — the chance of war is in East Asia, whether on the Korean peninsula or East China Sea or something like that?
Dan Sullivan: [00:18:33] Right now the entire effort of this administration — and the Congress right? — what we do on these trips is, you know, reinforcing messages, hearing what other people are thinking. But you know when you meet with all the foreign ministers , defense ministers, presidents, right now the effort is 110 percent still focused on diplomacy.
Dan Sullivan: [00:18:56] Everybody says that. I had a good meeting with Secretary Mattis right before I came home.
Dan Sullivan: [00:19:03] That’s where they’re at, and in my view, that’s where they should be. The sanctions are really starting to work. You’re getting intel on what’s happening in North Korea. It takes a while, as you know for these to kick in, but they’re starting to bite. The administration just two days ago put a whole nother set of really tough sanctions on these guys.
Dan Sullivan: [00:19:28] So imminent? No. It’s not. The focus is still 100 percent on diplomacy. And, you know, I think we’ve, you know James, this is something else you and I have talked about, but what we’re doing in the South China Sea and what the Chinese are doing in the South China Sea. You know Secretary Mattis — and I have been someone who has followed this very closely — has now put together a strategy of regular, routine, what we call freedom of navigation operations, FONOPS, where the United States is out there with our Navy ships and is saying hey, you don’t own this, right? This is an open international waterway. We protect the freedom of navigation in this part of the world for 70 years. It would be good if our allies start to come and run these FONOPS with us. But we’re doing them regularly and that just kind of shows people we’re not going to accept. You know China’s essentially claimed almost the entire South China Sea as its territorial waters and we’re saying it’s not. The U.N. has come out with this tribunal ruling, come out and said it’s not, so we need to be firm, regular with our allies, and not not let kind of China’s aggressive actions in that critical sea lane be accepted.
Matt Shuckerow: [00:20:52] So we’re running out of time, so if I — we could talk about North Korea for a long time, so maybe we just want to get to a couple more questions.
Emily Miller: [00:21:01] Yeah. A question about the “Green Rush.” Legal marijuana, which I noticed one of the legislators brought up with you.
Dan Sullivan: [00:21:05] Yeah.
Emily Miller: [00:21:05] And the question after your speech. And my impression was you basically think there needs to be some sort of legislation to help that uncertainty.
Dan Sullivan: [00:21:13] That’s the long-term solution, there’s no doubt about it.
Emily Miller: [00:21:17] What does that legislation look like?
Dan Sullivan: [00:21:18] It could — It’s a very good question. We can get back to you on a number of — you know there’s some that are very specifically focused on medical marijuana. There are some that are just kind of, almost 10th Amendment oriented like, hey, if you are devising, if your state has said the industry is something we approve of us citizens, as long as it doesn’t cross the border into other states, then the state should have the right to do that.
Dan Sullivan: [00:21:50] It’s a little tougher if you’re like Utah or Colorado where a lot of the concerns — when Colorado legalized — of what’s going in and out of the border. But for us that actually might be a little bit easier. So, and that’s kind of interesting because that attracts more, like, kind of 10th Amendment libertarian conservative senators, even though they might not be from states that have legalized marijuana. I just think that it’s a tough issue. A lot of people focus, like I said in my remarks today, on this Cole issue that the Obama administration Justice Department put out, but if you read the Cole memo, even the Cole memo was, I mean it still had a huge caveat: You’re OK to do this until we say otherwise. So. You know I think it will be a longer term endeavor, but the uncertainty that needs to be removed that businesses can take advantage of that in Alaska, from my perspective needs to be legislated, and we’re looking at ways — as I mentioned I wasn’t supportive of the—
Emily Miller: [00:22:57] Ballot measure.
Dan Sullivan: [00:22:58] —ballot measure, but once it passed pretty much overwhelmingly, as a senator believes strongly in states rights,I’ve certainly worked with the Alaska interest on trying to get some kind of federal resolution.
James Brooks: [00:23:12] One thing we’ve seen out of Congressman Don Young and wanted to ask you your thoughts on this, is the acquisition of our local utility AEL&P by a Canadian firm, Hydro One in directly.
Dan Sullivan: [00:23:26] Oh, right.
James Brooks: [00:23:26] He had raised some concerns about Snettisham Hydro the, the dam here that was built with federal backing. Have you been following that at all?
Dan Sullivan: [00:23:35] No. I mean I heard about it. The only kind of analogue that I, when I was kind of asked about it, I don’t know a lot of the details. You know there was one kind of example that I think has worked out well: ENSTAR.
Dan Sullivan: [00:23:50] You know , in Southcentral it was bought by a, I think a Canadian-owned entity. I think they’re Canadian-owned, or I’m pretty sure, aren’t they?
Matt Shuckerow: [00:24:00] Yes.
Dan Sullivan: [00:24:02] And I think that, I mean, look, it depends on typically particularly with a country like Canada where there’s a lot of cross-border investment in our resource sector and a lot of our mining is Canadian investment.
Dan Sullivan: [00:24:15] If the investments enable our local companies to acquire more capital and do more expansion, you know I don’t typically see that as a problem but I don’t know enough about it to comment in any kind of detail.
Emily Miller: [00:24:30] One last question: Is Alaska too dependent on oil?
Dan Sullivan: [00:24:35] You know what I tried to do in my remarks today and last year, if you looked at my speech, I specifically said this movement in Alaska, kind of the ‘leave it in the ground movement , ’ I did not support. By the way, one of the big cheerleaders of leaving the ground movement for Alaska was President Obama, who, if you might remember, on his way out the door took the Chukchi and Beaufort seas off the table for any kind of development, stated in his Presidential statement that the Arctic economy needs to move beyond energy and focus on things like philanthropy.
Dan Sullivan: [00:25:19] Philanthropy. Which I thought was an outrageous statement for the president of the United States should say Alaskans should look to charity. So, what we—
Dan Sullivan: [00:25:30] So, I’m a, I’m a big supporter and see huge opportunities continuing in our resource sector.
Dan Sullivan: [00:25:38] And when I say resources I mean oil, gas, mining, fisheries, timber.
Dan Sullivan: [00:25:45] But what I did in my remarks today is that I also laid out the notion that we can do so much more. The diversification of the economy. Not saying no, no to resources but to expand the opportunities into other sectors. I think we’re just scratching the surface on it, and what I tried to do in my kind of last pillar of my speech about, you know, a state of the future; when you look at what we have in terms of unique strategic advantages relative to almost any other state , they’re huge. And it’s not just in the resource sector. They’re huge. So you know a lot of times you say well then, what is it, government? Right. I don’t know. Right. I think you need a little humility here, but I believe that policies of less government, more economic freedom, good standards of living attract creative minds, adventurous people to come up here and say: “Hey. We’re creating a place that’s really wonderful and unique. You guys figure it out.” Is the best way to do it.
Dan Sullivan: [00:26:54] And we’re trying really hard in Washington to do that. I think we’ve made some progress, so I would say we are a resource development economy. We’re going to be for quite some time, but could we do a better job of diversifying our economy into other opportunities beyond the energy and resource sector? Yeah, absolutely. But it doesn’t mean you then say, like some people in this state, unfortunately in my view, are saying, leave it in the ground. No.
Matt Shuckerow: [00:27:24] Yeah, I think unless we have one short one, I think we may have to get going.
James Brooks: [00:27:30] The only thing is just a follow up from the speech in general. I can’t read people’s minds on their reactions, but I am going to ask them about it. One thing I did notice is how much more applause you got than Murkowski got. What do you think I should make of that?
James Brooks: [00:27:48] Because I just don’t know what it means.
Dan Sullivan: [00:27:51] I’m not going to go there, right? I mean, look , what we tried—
Dan Sullivan: [00:27:53] The other thing I tried hard on that speech was, and well, this is an important issue, and certainly Senator Murkowski agrees with this.
Dan Sullivan: [00:28:01] You know I tried to make that very bipartisan. Right? There wasn’t a lot in there that I think people were like, “oh I don’t like that.” I mean look, I did focus on health care and I had some strong words about the Affordable Care Act and the individual mandate. But you know the more you dig into that — you guys should dig into that — That was the some of the worst policy I think I’ve —
Dan Sullivan: [00:28:21] I mean, I’ve been fighting that since I was attorney general. I thought it was unconstitutional. But that was a regressive tax, regressive, that for 80 percent of Americans who pay that tax, 80 percent for the country, 70 percent of Alaska, made $50,000 or less. OK. That was a bad policy.
Dan Sullivan: [00:28:40] I’m glad to see it go.
Matt Shuckerow: [00:28:42] We’ll get you those numbers . I mean, in Alaska it’s 20,000 people. Almost as many in the individual market.
Emily Miller: [00:28:49] That paid the tax?
Dan Sullivan: [00:28:50] That paid the tax, saying, I’m not going to buy something that you’re forcing me to buy because I can’t afford it. Come on. I mean, so, but for the most part, what I try to do is focus on bipartisan areas and then importantly, and I, look, I’ve been going around and meeting with a bunch of legislators this morning — and it happens to all of us — It certainly happens to me: You can get so focused on the issue of the day or the issue of the week that you kind of forget to step back and go, “All right. What’s the big picture here? Right. Like what’s the future looking like? Are we really in a world of hurt or do we have opportunities and, you know, promise that we were not really thinking about it?”
Dan Sullivan: [00:29:39] So, unlike my previous speeches, I tried to do a lot of that. And you know I’ve gotten nice feedback from legislators who have essentially said, ‘Hey, thanks for doing that.’
Dan Sullivan: [00:29:53] It’s not always easy,we can’t always do it, you can’t always do it. We put a lot of time and thought into the end into the speech with that notion of like, every now and then we got to take a step back and realize, yeah we’ve got big challenges, but holy cow we still got some great, great opportunities. And, you know, I think people appreciate that as long as you’re not lecturing at them, and that certainly wasn’t the intent.
Lisa Murkowski, Feb. 22
Lisa Murkowski: [00:00:01] OK, I’ve been doing all the talking, so you guys have to ask all the questions. I am ready. Anything that is fact-checkable is in my purple folder. I haven’t had to check it once today.
Emily Miller: [00:00:19] What was the one?
Lisa Murkowski: [00:00:19] I haven’t had to check it.
Joe Leong: [00:00:19] I need a purple folder.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:00:19] You know what it is? It’s newspaper articles, junk that I collect.
Emily Miller: [00:00:28] I’ve got one, too.
Emily Miller: [00:00:28] Well, we thought we’d start off with the last points you made in your speech this morning which is about guns in America.
Emily Miller: [00:00:36] You said in response to Parkland that there’s, if anything can bring the country together, it should be the senseless death of innocent children. What proposed solutions do you have to prevent this from happening again?
Lisa Murkowski: [00:00:49] Well again, I think it is worth repeating and necessary to repeat that there is no one fix. If there was, I would certainly have — I would certainly think that we would have done it before. But there is, I think there’s a host of things that we need to look at as we deal with mass shootings and just what we’re seeing around the country in terms of increased level of violence. And so, when we look to the perpetrators of these very violent acts, some have not lived beyond the tragedy that they brought to others. So we can’t ask them the question: What drove you to this? But, we’ve got pretty good indications that most of these individuals suffer from varying degrees of mental illness. So that clearly has to be a focus that we, that we look to and how we are, how we’re identifying the signs. And I mentioned in my — in my comments, this legislation called the Stop Violence Act. This was this was post—
Lisa Murkowski: [00:02:16] —just watching that eagle. He’s going down after something over there. Anyway—
Lisa Murkowski: [00:02:22] So the Stop Violence Act came about after Columbine and was directed to be — OK, let’s secure our schools — a very reactive approach. What we’re looking at now is, is increasing the amount of grant funding that is available but allowing for an expansion of these grants to go more towards the assessment, the identification, the training. I mentioned this young girl from Eagle River knew of the Sandy Hook Promise. Eagle River’s actually implementing different aspects of this program. Over the weekend, I called up the father of one of the children that was slain in Sandy Hook. And we have had, my office has had, conversations with him over the years trying again to, to, to, to, formulate better, better plans. And Mr. Barden walked me through some of the, some of the various proposals that the Sandy Hook Promise has been working, and a lot of this again is, is a level of reporting. Think about — and I talked about this with the kids in Eagle River:
Lisa Murkowski: [00:03:44] You’ve got a friend or kid that you sit in class with and just something is off but you don’t feel right going to your teacher and saying, you know James is going weird on us.
Joe Leong: [00:04:00] Nuts.
[00:04:01] And so to have a level of anonymity and reporting, a place where you feel that it’s safe to take some of this. This is part of what they are working to to identify. The program is, there’s two of them. One is called “Say Something” and the other one that we learned about, “It Just Starts With Hello”?
Karina Petersen: [00:04:28] Yes.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:04:28] Starts With Hello. I’m not saying that that is the end-all be-all, but it is something that the training that is going on right now, they tell me two and a half million students and teachers have been trained in this approach. It’s in place, it’s evidence-based in the sense that the suicides that they have been able to, to intervene, the threats that they been able to pick up on. So here you have a group of parents who have been motivated to act because of the horrific tragedy there at Sandy Hook. And this is where they’re focusing much of their energy. But it’s not just on the mental health side. I think we recognize that we have failures within our system that could, could help also prevent these types of mass shootings.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:05:34] One of the things that we learned and the — what was it? This is a part of the problem when you have so many of these shootings you forget which one it was, but it was a failure within the Department of Defense to be able to to share records with NICS about domestic violence, domestic violence incident on the individual who was the shooter there. We haven’t, we haven’t corrected that yet. Now, agencies can act on their own. But don’t you think that that’s a simple thing that we can say: As, as agencies gather this information that you put it into the NICS system that as states we should all be making sure that the information that we have is going into that national database? Because we can we can say well we’re going to count on that, but if we don’t have good data, if we’re not sharing the information, shame on us. Another one that quite honestly I think we need to come back to: There was there was several years back the focus on the no-fly list. If you’re on the terrorist watch list maybe you just should be able to go out and purchase a gun. And we got in loggerheads there because you had the response that well there’s a lot of false positives on that list. OK. If there’s a lot of false positives, let’s clear that up. We can do that.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:07:14] We can do better at making sure that we have good and accurate data. The bad guys that are poking into our affairs in our elections, they’re getting pretty good data on us. We can do a better job, and I’m being sarcastic when I say that. But we can’t use that as an excuse.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:07:36] So let’s figure that out. And then the other thing that happens is we say well doing that would not have stopped this particular shooting. And so we do nothing. We do nothing. Well it might not have stopped this particular shooting but maybe it’s going to stop the next one. And so, do not get focused on the facts of this tragedy and say we need to address just this one. We need to be looking at this broader. We are going up: the trend, the trajectory for more mass, mass shootings and just the level of violence is going up.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:08:17] So, I’ve gone way too long.
Emily Miller: [00:08:19] Speaking of looking broader. Here’s the list of shootings where AR-15s are used. It’s becoming now, with 20 years of mass shootings, you know, the weapon of choice for school shooters, mass shooters. The AR-15 was once banned under federal law for ten years.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:08:39] Well, now, keep in mind you’ve got an AR-15 platform which is different than the assault weapon. They are different.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:08:47] And I think that that is an important distinction because we have a tendency to just say OK, assault weapons should be banned. Well as you know the true assault weapon is banned.
Emily Miller: [00:08:59] This is specifically with the AR-15s or any weapon that meets that definition.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:09:04] Right, yeah. And and see, “AR-15 style rifle” because one of the things that we see is that they will take—
Emily Miller: [00:09:13] Sure, and modify it a little bit to—
Lisa Murkowski: [00:09:15] Modify it, yeah.
Emily Miller: [00:09:16] Right. Well, regardless it seems like the AR-15 now in hindsight, people it’s on the table again as in conversation. Do you think that the AR-15 should be banned? Should that be a conversation we should be having?
Lisa Murkowski: [00:09:29] I don’t want to single out one specific weapon.
Emily Miller: [00:09:33] Why not?
Lisa Murkowski: [00:09:34] Because if we if we say, OK, hey, AR 15s are banned, have we addressed the problem of mass shooting or have we addressed it with one particular type of weapon?
Lisa Murkowski: [00:09:50] What is going to preclude the next person that has significant mental illness from, from finding another, another type of weapon that is capable of, of a mass killing? It’s not just AR-15s. So what I think we need to look to is, all right, there are there are weapons out there that have clearly greater killing capacity. Should we be looking at the, at the magazine capacity? Should we, should we say OK, all AR-15 style platforms should be banned? I’m saying, let’s put all of this out there for discussion.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:10:41] Let’s not be afraid to say hey, is because we see it in this many cases, is this the one? Or what else do we need to do to address what is a, a, a, a, not only a problem now, but it’s a growing problem and it’s one that it just seems that, that we’re seeing greater instances in this country? So you need to go to root cause. These guys just don’t wake up one day and say I’m going to go into an elementary school and take kids out.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:11:22] We’ve got to be looking at that because we can ban every weapon out there, every firearm, and still not be able to solve the problem if that same deranged individual decides he’s going to get into his truck and he’s going to attack that whole, that whole school as these kids are coming out. I mean, we have to think broader than the one instance on June 12, 2016, or we’re not going to turn this trend around.
Emily Miller: [00:11:54] Now, President Trump yesterday as one of his possible solutions during a discussion suggested arming teachers, certain teachers who may be qualified to carry a firearm or concealed weapon.
Emily Miller: [00:12:07] Do you believe that should be as a viable solution?
Lisa Murkowski: [00:12:14] Who is — it was Representative Wool who made the comment at the Leg speech about you know, we don’t want our, we don’t want our schools to be turned into these — I forget the term.
Karina Petersen: [00:12:27] War zones.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:12:28] War zones. And I don’t. I want, I want all of our schools to be places where our kids feel safe. That’s why when initially after Columbine, the effort was made to, to put in metal detectors. And I know, I understand, I understand the rationale behind it, but you just, you want to know that there are some places that are safe and then we say that this is a gun-free zone and that does that then make it a more identified target? I don’t know
Joe Leong: [00:13:07] Why do you think, whenever one of these tragedies happens, it’s always about gun control? Why doesn’t the mental illness come up as a solution that we need to focus on?
Lisa Murkowski: [00:13:19] It does. It does. But what we have unfortunately seen is that you’ll have, and I’ll use an example. After, I think it must have been after Sandy Hook. Senator Grassley and, I think, Senator Cornyn came together with Senator Feinstein and they were trying to work on, not only the gun control side, but the — Oh, no, no, no, no, this was the NICS fix. So rewind my example, but it was Cornyn and Grassley and Freinstein, and it was an effort to, to provide for updating of our NICS background check, and then those who were adamant about gun control said we need to put gun control wrong.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:14:24] And I might be getting my facts wrong.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:14:25] I should look at my purple binder because this is an important story. Would you mind if I look?
Joe Leong: [00:14:31] No, absolutely. I’m telling you, I’m going to get a purple binder.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:14:36] In the purple binder — Yeah, it was after Sandy Hook. And it was after Sandy Hook, we had, we had Grassley’s amendment to improve the NICS system, address mental health issues, and end the straw purchasing of firearms. Then we had a Leahy Amendment, so a Democrat — bipartisan, I supported it — on firearms trafficking, and that was a situation where we didn’t advance because the, the Democrats were unwilling to pass a gun control bill that only contained mental health provisions in it. So, I don’t remember what year this was, but well, it was in the Obama administration.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:15:40] But again what happens is you have these these lines drawn in the sand. You have a red line that is drawn, and it’s, I think, if you’re going to do anything on mental health side, I’m going to insist that we have gun control over here. And then what happens is we’re at an impasse because we can’t get to 60. And so therefore no gun control measure happens and no mental health legislation happens. And that is that is really been extremely, extremely discouraging. We had we had one, I forget what the—
Lisa Murkowski: [00:16:25] Oh yeah, one was, this was again back after, after Sandy Hook and we were trying to, to get the NICS fix in place. But they said in order to get the update to the NICS system, the, the other side was saying well we have to do a concealed carry reciprocity.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:16:45] Well that was a no-go proposal for the, for the gun control group.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:16:52] And so we didn’t fix the NICS background. So do — I was asked if, if, I think this time is any different? Is this different than the Pulse Nightclub, is this different than Sandy Hook, is this different than Columbine? And I said that I think it is. And I think it is because of what you’re seeing with young people who are standing up, who are walking out of their classrooms, who are planning a march on their state capitals, who are planning a march on the nation’s capital, to say you guys are the adults, you’ve got to fix something because we’re afraid.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:17:33] And we need to listen to those kids. We have to listen to those kids. And I’m not saying that we didn’t, we didn’t listen after Columbine and after Sandy Hook and after the nightclub and just after all of these, but I’m, I’m just, I’m, I’m really weary of this, and I cannot imagine what it means to be a parent of a child who has been taken while they’re at school or to be that kid who is hiding in the closet listening to all of this going on and now having to go back to school. And I just feel it has to be different this time. And I’ll tell you: I did not like the news quip clips that I saw this morning about the NRA saying, pff, not going to be any gun control. Well, stop. We cannot, we cannot stop the conversation before we even allowed it to start. And we all have an obligation on this. And I know, I know, I’m an NRA member, but we’ve got to do something.
Emily Miller: [00:18:57] MC will do the next question.
Mary Catharine Martin: [00:18:57] Sure.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:18:59] It will be really short like Emily’s.
Mary Catharine Martin: [00:19:02] Well, to switch topics: I know that you have been active in trying to get IJC involvement in the issue of Transboundary mines, or mines on the Canadian side of the border on watersheds that flow into Southeast Alaska. Where is that right now?
Mary Catharine Martin: [00:19:21] Also, as you know the former B.C. Minister of Mines, Bill Bennett, came, visited Juneau. He went and toured the Tulsequah Chief with Byron Mallott and made a promise to get it cleaned up. It hasn’t been cleaned up. It’s been leaching acid mine drainage into the Taku for decades. What is the likelihood of IJC involvement in the transboundary mine issue, and also have you been — Tell us about what you’ve been doing as far as getting Canadians involved in this issue as well.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:19:52] Well there has been a lot of hands on deck with this one as well. You know, we’ve been pushing now for, for years, and when Secretary Kerry was Secretary of State I brought this personally to him and said we’ve got an issue.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:20:07] Fortunately, it is not a — we don’t have like a Mount Polley dam situation,but we are concerned. And we need to be proactive. We need to be working with our neighbors in Canada but we need the attention of the State Department focused on this. And it was it was not the — we were not met with the enthusiasm for this as we thought. And in fairness, Secretary Kerry was dealing with a lot of hotspots and he was very busy. But, there are other people within your state department that can attend to this and we just kind of felt like we would get bumped down the chain all the while. Meanwhile Lieutenant Governor Mallott takes this up at his level. And I really credit him for a continued engagement, whether with former minister Bennett or our other Canadian officials. There have been strong efforts from the grassroots perspective, whether it’s the fishermen here or just a very organized effort to shine a light on this. So kind of fast forward to where we are today. I think the good news is that, is that there has been a continued effort to elevate this even further than B.C. So, it was just last week that the lieutenant governor and Senator Sullivan were in Ottawa with a whole series of meetings. I had lunch yesterday with the lieutenant governor,and he gave me an update. He felt that that the meetings all went very well, that the message was made very, very, very clear that we need this level of engagement. So I think we’re, I think we are getting Canada’s attention as we need, in order to facilitate this.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:22:06] We also need to have the priority made within our State Department, and this is something that I raised with Secretary Tillerson when he first came on. But we’re kind of in a little bit of a deja vu on the State Department side. The State Department has not been filled out in terms of many of, of the positions there, and I’m not blaming anybody. I’m just saying matter-of-factly that as we try to elevate this to a level of attention, you’ve got limited bandwidth, and we’re going to we’re trying to address that.
Emily Miller: [00:22:45] But how do you put pressure on them?
Lisa Murkowski: [00:22:49] The Canadians?
Emily Miller: [00:22:50] Yeah. You know how we keep reaching out to engage. How do you force the issue?
Lisa Murkowski: [00:22:53] And, and keep in mind, the MOU that was entered into between Alaska and and British Columbia, led by the lieutenant governor, was, was a very important part because not all, not everybody is in agreement that the IJC is the best entity to, to reconcile this and in fact the state said, let us let us try another run at this because we might, we might have better success working our channels. I think, think it was probably mid of last year that we all kind of agreed that, OK we need to, we need to elevate this higher. So what more can be done? I think it is, it is not only continued pressure about the issue, continued engagement not only on the Alaska side but on the Canadian side as well. But it has to be it has to be something that is, is made a priority for review by the State Department. So we’ve got opportunities going forward. Senator Sullivan is on the EPW Committee which has jurisdiction.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:24:11] I’m on the Appropriations Committee,so I use appropriations to remind our secretaries and our undercabinet folks what our priorities are, and this one clearly has to be out there. You know very seldom do we have an opportunity to work to prevent issues and problems. And your point about Tulsequah, is, that’s, that’s longstanding.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:24:37] But I think we ought to view this as, this is our chance to, to act proactively. We don’t want to be in a reactive mode. Because then you really are going to have an issue between two countries. So unfortunately, around Washington, it seems like only the real, the real, kind of hot-button issues get the attention. We, what I told, what I told Secretary Kerry and Secretary Tillerson is we want to keep this from being a hot spot.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:25:14] That’s the goal.
Mary Catharine Martin: [00:25:17] And then, just for a different one: In the 2016 Tongass management plan, it charts a path to take Southeast Alaska’s logging industry towards young-growth tree stands. But then provisions you’ve offered, authored in a recent spending bill have Alaska kind of backing off the plan for young growth. Tell us about that.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:25:37] Not backing off the plan, but making sure that we’re doing what the Tongass management plan called for which was an inventory because we, think there’s a recognition that we want to move to second growth, but we also know that as far as I know there’s not one of us here that can make a tree grow faster. And so if we’re going to, to, to, to move towards second growth, let’s make sure we understand what we have. This was a recommendation from the TAC. It made sense, and then, the day before the Obama administration left, they laid down their their their 2016 plan that, that, basically it’s kind of moving right on through without, without an appropriate inventory.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:26:24] When I say appropriate, I think you know it’s not like we’re going to check every single tree in the Tongass but making make sure that it is an honest and complete evaluation. I’ve been working on my end on the appropriations end to make sure that Forest Service has the resources. Every time I talk to ‘em, it’s like, do you have what you need in order to conduct the inventory, because everything is kind of contingent upon this. No, no no, we’re fine, we’re fine, we’re fine. And so what I have been demanding is some honesty in our timing of this and so, asking for an inventory is, is not saying we don’t want to move towards second growth. It is not saying we’re pulling the plug on the plan. It’s saying that let’s understand and, and have a schedule that is honest based on our inventory. And that’s, that’s what we’ve been kind of moving towards.
Emily Miller: [00:27:27] I’ll let you keep going about the Tongass if you want.
Mary Catharine Martin: [00:27:29] All right.
Mary Catharine Martin: [00:27:31] Your ANCSA Improvement Act would make some changes to Alaska Native corporation lands in Southeast Alaska, creating urban corporations. And some of those — so each of those new corporations would receive land transfers of about 23,000 acres from the federal government, which would be open for development, some of which was not previously. Why do you feel this is important and how would you address concerns that the bill opens up previously protected land to development?
Lisa Murkowski: [00:28:03] Well, I, my focus has been on equity under ANCSA. When you have five communities — and only five communities — that have been left out of the original ANCSA entitlement — because if you say well wait a minute what’s the difference between between Haines and Skagway?
Lisa Murkowski: [00:28:35] They’re pretty close to one another. Haines was left out. Skagway was not. Juneau was taken care of. Ketchikan was not. You can, you can go down the whole list and you say, well, what happened? And interestingly the legislative history on it is more than a little bit muddled and not clear. It’s like well, they were just not included. So you have a situation where all over the entire state, Alaska Native people received their, their settlement, their entitlement under ANCSA with the exception of five communities. And there were requirements that the villages and communities had to meet in terms of minimum number of residents and the like. These five communities met them all. There was, there was nothing that was a disqualifier. And so over the years these five communities have, have, have come to every member of the delegation. And for decades now we’ve been introducing legislation that would allow for, what we call the landless Natives, to basically give them the equity that every other every other Native, Native community was entitled to. Now, there is, there are those that don’t like that because they say well, you’re giving up federal land and they might develop this. Well, that’s true. They might, just as every other community that received their lands pursuant to ANCSA was able to do. They might put it in conservation status, I don’t know. But at least they would have that opportunity. Instead, they are treated as as just kind of, just left out.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:30:38] And so, for me this is a matter of equity. It’s challenging because as we all know every acre this — these communities are all down in the Tongass. Every acre in the Tongass is precious.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:30:51] Every acre is considered considered somebody’s. And so how you can provide for equity is a challenge. We we lived through that with the Sealaska land conveyance for, for almost a full year. A full year? A full ten years. A full decade. We worked to resolve that and that was hard. It was hard. But just because things are hard doesn’t mean that we should give up on them. And so how we are able to provide for some level of compensation, some level of equity for these for these landless — I’m going to keep working on that. And there has been some that said, you know maybe maybe it’s not land, maybe it’s some other form of compensation. I don’t know. We’ve been working with them. Maybe it’s,maybe it’s not within their area. Maybe it’s somewhere else. But the solution has evaded us for a long time because, because — and not to be critical — but the way that you read your question to me was very much slanted to, “Good lord we could give this to, we could take this from federal lands and we could give it to to somebody who might develop it and that would be a horrible thing.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:32:14] I don’t think it’s a horrible thing to allow for local economies, and I don’t think it’s a horrible thing to allow for a level of equity with our Alaska Native people. And so we’re probably going to be working this for a long while. This is not, this is not unlike the same issue that we’re dealing with with our Vietnam veterans.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:32:34] You know, there’s about 300 of them that were not able to select their Native allotments because they were serving in Vietnam. And Vietnam was a long time ago now, and those veterans are still saying well wait, I’m serving my country and I missed out on literally a birthright. What are you going to do? And that’s hard too, because again they want to select in their traditional hunting areas that somebody else — whether it’s federally held or you know, military reservation or some state land, it’s a native corporation, so it’s hard. These are hard, hard issues. It is hard. But I think it’s important. I really — And you can tell that I think is important.
Mary Catharine Martin: [00:33:31] I can.
Karina Petersen: [00:33:32] Probably just one more. We’ve got to—
Emily Miller: [00:33:35] OK. Yes let’s do this. We asked the community: if you could ask Lisa Murkowski one question, what would it be?
Lisa Murkowski: [00:33:47] Oh, good.
Emily Miller: [00:33:47] Here’s the question. It’s a little lengthy but—
Lisa Murkowski: [00:33:48] Did they really like isolate it to one question?
Emily Miller: [00:33:51] Yeah.
Mary Catharine Martin: [00:33:52] Oh, people suggested different questions and we chose one.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:33:53] You picked.
Emily Miller: [00:33:57] I would ask U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski What her opinion is the lawsuit filed by Cruise Lines International Association against the City and Borough of Juneau, and I would ask Sen. Murkowski to talk to Mr. John Binkley, the president of CLIA in regard to dropping the suit. The 800,000 already spent or allocated to defend Juneau against the lawsuit filed by the cruise industry could have been spent to make Juneau a better place for locals as well as visitors. Dropping the lawsuit against CBJ would go a long way in building a positive long-term relationship with the city as well as its residents.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:34:30] OK, I need to be brought up to speed, because I thought they dropped it, like this week.
Connie McKenzie: [00:34:37] I don’t think so.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:34:37] I think it was in your report, Connie.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:34:41] Where’s my purple file?
Connie McKenzie: [00:34:42] Not that they dropped the suit.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:34:45] What happened then? There is something that happened just recently about this lawsuit, and I thought it was that they had dropped it quickly and quietly.
Emily Miller: [00:34:56] Uh, no. They have, the city has made a couple offers to settle, according to the city manager. But those, it hasn’t worked out. So this lawsuit is still ongoing.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:35:11] Well I mean the easy answer for me is to say that we don’t get involved in the lawsuits.
Emily Miller: [00:35:17] If you could, maybe?
Lisa Murkowski: [00:35:19] Well, but I mean seriously, we don’t. When a constituent comes to us and says, you know I need help with this and it’s an ongoing litigation, we can’t get involved for a host of of good reasons.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:35:30] I do think, though, that this is something that our communities really, our, our inland coastal communities rely on.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:35:43] And the cruise industry, we think about the tourism that comes to us and what it means from an economic perspective. It is, it is hugely significant. And so every time I see this conflict and the tension between the communities and the industry, it just, it concerns me because we need to be working together and not going at one another. It is very much a, a symbiotic relationship.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:36:15] They do very well off the, the people here in Southeast in the sense of — They get people who, who want to see Alaska before I die type of a thing. And we are their attraction. So when, when, whether it’s through litigation or just our inability to be working together on these things, that does not help us. I think one of the comments you made there or somebody made there is that the money can be much better spent to improve, whether it’s tourist amenities or just the overall tourist experience rather than sending it to the lawyers. So. I’ve never been a big fan of, of, by gosh, I’m just going to sue you.
Emily Miller: [00:37:03] And one more quick, easy question. Trump is talking about a big transportation bill. Is there any chance—
Lisa Murkowski: [00:37:09] Infrastructure.
Emily Miller: [00:37:09] Right. Is there any chance that the road in Juneau, potential road, could get federal funding? Or what about money for the ferry system?
Lisa Murkowski: [00:37:21] So when, when we’ve been talking about infrastructure, we’ve been very clear about making sure that it is broad in terms of how we define it. It just can’t be I-95s and, and, you know, some huge major bridge that thousands and thousands of cars go over. We need to make sure that rural infrastructure is included as well. And that’s one of the good pieces within the president’s proposal. There’s not a lot of meat that has really been laid down, but we’ve got the, we’ve got the 30,000-foot view. So recognizing that there would be 50 billion that is kind of offset for rural, I think is very important but that does mean that projects like whether, it whether it is the road or, or really the infrastructure projects that some would say, well that’s not quite shovel ready. I don’t think the criteria here is shovel ready so much as, as how will this infrastructure allow us to build out our local economies? And so with everything the devil is always in the details. In this instance, the devil is really going to be in the funding details because we all want to build things but nobody wants to pay for them. We’re going to have to figure out how we pay for them. And this is where again from a rural perspective, we’re a little bit at a disadvantage.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:38:55] We’re not going to put an toll road out here, and we’re not probably going to be able to attract the public-private partners that look at this and say aha, this is going to be a great return on my investment. We don’t we don’t fit that bill. And so President discussed increasing the gas tax. And significantly so. I reminded him that in Alaska we pay — well, we pay in state for a gas tax. Ours is the lowest gas tax. We also pay more for our, for our gasoline, than just about anybody outside of Hawaii. Hawaii, I think, still beats us, although some of our rural communities, we blow them out of the water. So, recognizing that there has to be some evening or some smoothing there.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:39:52] Also recognizing that a gas tax means that you pay at the pump.
Lisa Murkowski: [00:39:59] Well, here in this beautiful community you’ve got a lot of people that are moving to electronic, er, electric vehicles. We want to encourage that. We don’t want to discourage that. But you also don’t get anything from a gas tax if you plug in at night and yet you’re on the roads and you’re using it, so how do we account for, for, just the reality that we have going forward? So the transportation bill is significant in terms of opportunities, but I am telling communities — I came from AML — telling people, bring your projects our way. We don’t know if this is going to materialize in the way that some would suggest. We don’t know if it’s going to come about at all, but by gosh if it does we’re going to be ready for every one of those projects and we’re going to be in the queue.
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