ANCHORAGE - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski introduced her first three bills this week. All are initiatives her father pursued when he was senator.
The first measure would vastly expand the budget of the Denali Commission by allowing it to fund up to $450 million a year in transportation projects.
The second would extend indefinitely an Alaska exception to the Medicaid formula that has the federal government paying for about 60 percent of the program. In other states, the cost of the health-care program for the poor is split 50-50 between the state and federal governments.
The third would allow Eskimo whaling captains to take tax deductions for the costs of outfitting their boats and crews.
Her transportation bill, which would quintuple the budget of the Denali Commission, is aimed at building roads and other transportation links between communities and to natural resources.
"You can't do any kind of economic development - development at all - if we don't have ... the transportation access to it, so this is all about access," she said.
The bill is co-sponsored by Alaska U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, who created the Denali Commission to improve the infrastructure of rural Alaska, just as the Appalachian Regional Commission does in its 13-state area.
The measure would only authorize the program and set a financial cap. If it passed, the funding would still have to be written into an appropriations bill each year.
The measure is very similar to a proposal Frank Murkowski introduced in the Senate in October, a few weeks before he was elected governor.
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