Senator Murkowski addresses former colleagues

Posted: Sunday, April 27, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski told her former state House colleagues Friday she's working on incentives to get a North Slope natural gas pipeline built, and backing a tax credit for stay-at-home parents.

Murkowski also told legislators she thinks the Transportation Security Administration has turned into government gone amok'' in small Alaska airports, and the situation needs to be fixed.

Murkowski, R-Alaska, spoke Friday to a joint session of the Legislature.

She left the state House after two terms when she was appointed in December to the U.S. Senate by her father, Gov. Frank Murkowski. She is filling out the remaining two years of his U.S. Senate term.

She was clearly happy Friday to be back with legislative friends after four months in the nation's capital.

When I walked in the building this morning, I was homesick,'' she said at a news conference after the speech. The first place I stopped was the lounge, to get a hug from Patty the cook.''

She said she was almost tempted to slide back into her old seat on the House floor.

Murkowski talked about legislation she and other members of Alaska's congressional delegation have been pushing to spur construction of a North Slope natural gas pipeline.

And Murkowski said she plans to introduce legislation to provide a $200-per-month tax credit for families if one of the parents stays home with their children. It would apply to families with children under age six. The legislation would recognize the economic sacrifice those families make, she said.

Murkowski supports President George W. Bush's tax cut package, she said, and suggested tax credits could help low- and moderate-income families buy health insurance.

The senator said she will work with federal education officials to make the federal No Child Left Behind Act work for Alaska.

And she plans to introduce legislation that would provide federal money for rural school districts to build and maintain housing for teachers who sign long-term contracts.

Sen. Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai, asked what the government could do to ease the burden new transportation security requirements pose for travelers using small airports.

Murkowski agreed something needs to be done.

We have created a monster with TSA as it applies in Alaska,'' Murkowski. While it works relatively well in larger city airports, she said it has led to absurd situations in smaller communities.

The TSA expects to have 100 workers in Ketchikan, which would make it practically the largest employer in the city of 13,000. Many are from out of state and will have to be put up at local hotels at government expense, she said.

Because the Ketchikan airport has no X-ray machine, all bags are being searched, which means tourists will wind up having their boxes of salmon unsealed come tourist season, she said.

We have got to go back and fix it, because this is absurd,'' Murkowski said.

When asked about the perennial issue of a rural preference for subsistence hunting and fishing, she gave lawmakers the same answer other members of the congressional delegation have offered for years. Alaskans have to agree on a solution before federal lawmakers will be willing to tinker with the national law, she said.

The federal government has taken over fish and game management on federal lands in Alaska because the state does not allow a rural subsistence preference, which federal law requires.

The state constitution does not permit the preference. Lawmakers have tried several times to muster enough legislative support to ask voters to amend the state constitution, but so far the efforts have fallen short.

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