The federal budget, energy production and a recent overturning of federal land management orders topped the list of items Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, discussed Thursday.
Murkowski spoke to a packed house for about an hour at a luncheon hosted by the Kenai and Soldotna Chambers of Commerce at the Kenai Merit Inn.
“I think that we all recognize that in Alaska, we are up against a lot of misunderstanding from folks on the outside about how we live up here,” she said.
Among those misunderstandings is how Alaskans and the rest of the nation feels about the federal budget and deficit, Murkowski contends.
“Last year, the administration’s approach to dealing with a nation that was in recession, they said, ‘Well, we are going to have to spend our way out of this problem,’” she said.
Now, thanks to legislative and personnel changes afforded by recent elections, Murkowski said she and other lawmakers would be getting “all hands on deck” to work on the budget.
“We can’t cut our way out of $14 trillion in debt and we can not raise enough taxes to get us out of $14 trillion in debt,” she said. “We’ve got to be honest about what we’ve got in front of us. We’ve got to recognize that the issue is not just the discretionary side of the budget. It is the non-discretionary side of the budget, it is the mandatory side (and) it is the entitlements.”
The Senator stressed cutting the budget wouldn’t be an easy task, however.
“How we are going to get our arms around that is where it is going to be tough,” she said. “But, in fairness to the young people who are going to inherit this debt, we are obligated to be addressing it now.”
Murkowski also addressed the high price of gas in Alaska and around the nation. She said she was encouraged by recent comments from President Barack Obama, who called for increased energy production to offset rising prices.
“He is saying we need to increase domestic production,” she said.
“Hallelujah. I think there is a recognition that perhaps supply does have an impact on price and we all know around here that there is not a switch that you can flip and get more gas out of Cook Inlet or get more oil coming into that pipeline. There is a transition time to make it happen.”
She said Obama’s comments aren’t yet being translated into action for the most part, but she and other legislators have been working on ground-level projects to accomplish that goal.
“It takes more than talk to develop a resource, it takes more than a plan, it takes commitment, it takes action and it usually takes resources,” she said. “We need to see that translated. That’s what we are doing in Washington D.C. — it is an every single day effort.”
Murkowski also talked about the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Lands policy, which was created by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and directed the local inventory of lands with wilderness characteristics to be managed to protect those characteristics.
“There are still back door efforts to create more wilderness and to do so in a way that bypasses Congress,” she said referring to the policy. “That is not allowable by law, and yet the Secretary of the Interior tried to do that with his new proposal.”
Salazar, however, recently reversed that policy — an action Murkowski praised.
“We should not be locking up more of America’s resources, we should be allowing access to them,” she said. “This goes back to the president’s statement that we want to do more domestically. Well then don’t be inconsistent with the policies that come out of your department.”