Politics

Statement by Alaska Rep. Don Young on why he voted for the infrastructure bill

Alaska’s lone member of the U.S. House, Rep. Don Young, was among 13 Republicans who voted for the infrastructure bill that passed the House Friday night in a 228-206 vote. The measure now goes to President Biden for his signature. Alaska’s Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, supported the measure in a previous vote.

Young’s office put out this statement:

Last night, I voted in support of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, commonly referred to as the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Our country is an economic powerhouse in no small part due to our historical support for infrastructure and other surface transportation projects. Perhaps more than anyone else, Alaskans know just how vital reliable infrastructure is to stay connected with one another and secure upward economic mobility. But I will be honest: when I take a look at some of our roads, bridges, and ports, I do not like what I see. I truly believe that this bipartisan infrastructure legislation may be our last best chance to make the federal investments necessary to modernize and strengthen America’s infrastructure needs for the next century and beyond.

Was this bill perfect? No, but truthfully, few pieces of legislation are. However, I firmly believe that we cannot sacrifice the good for the perfect. Very frankly, inaction on infrastructure risks our nation’s fundamental economic independence and strength.

Alaska is unlike any other state in the union. Our unique, often harsh terrain means we have very different infrastructure needs than the Lower 48. I am very pleased by the historic investments this legislation makes in Alaska. The bipartisan infrastructure bill authorizes $3.5 billion in federal Highway funding for Alaska over five years. This means we can rebuild, maintain, and construct new roads and highways to better serve Alaskans and keep them safe. The benefits for our state do not stop at highway funding alone.

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The Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) is an integral part of Southeast’s transportation portfolio, and I have been a long-time supporter of their operations. In fact, it was my own legislation that made it possible for the AMHS to qualify as a “highway” for the purposes of federal funding in the first place. This bipartisan infrastructure bill builds on this progress by providing $1 billion for essential ferry service to rural Alaskan communities. Additionally, it provides $73 million for the construction of new ferries for Alaska, while providing funding for an electric ferry pilot program to help our fleet run cleaner. Finally, for the very first time, the AMHS, will be eligible to receive future federal Highway aid funds for operation and repair. To say that this bill is a game-changer for Southeast is an understatement -- this is a once-in-a-generation investment opportunity for Southeast Alaska’s families and economy.

In addition to the support for highways and ferries, the bill we passed provides significant funding to support ports of all sizes in Alaska, including the Port of Alaska in Anchorage. Alaska also stands to receive $250 million for remote and subsistence harbor construction, which will help rural communities off the road system receive a true lifeline. From food and gasoline to medical supplies and raw materials, ports are essential for Alaskans in remote areas. In addition, this legislation takes needed action to fund the Coast Guard’s unfunded priority list, which will benefit Coast Guard service members in places like Kodiak, Seward, and Ketchikan.

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In conjunction with hard infrastructure, this bipartisan bill will fund projects of great importance to Alaska. The COVID-19 pandemic shined a spotlight on the need for fast and reliable broadband access. I welcome the bill’s investments in our state’s rural broadband connectivity, and I am confident that students, businesses, and families will benefit greatly from this broadband funding. I am especially glad that our Alaska Native communities will receive needed support to bolster their own transportation programs. This is especially critical as they work to recover from the devastation caused by the pandemic.

The Denali Commission is a crucially important agency to Alaskans. Since its creation by Congress in 1998, the Denali Commission has done needed work to provide utilities, infrastructure, and economic support throughout Alaska. Ensuring the Commission has the resources necessary to carry out its mission has always been one of my highest priorities. The bipartisan bill we passed last night authorizes $75 million for the Denali Commission to keep up its hard work on behalf of Alaskans.

I have made it repeatedly clear that I do not like the way this bill made it to the House Floor. It should have moved through regular order, allowing Transportation Chairman DeFazio and Ranking Member Graves to improve the bill. But there are no do-overs now, and too much of America’s infrastructure is already in the 11th hour of its usefulness. This is a solid piece of legislation that will help set the stage for the next century of American competitiveness. Alaskans have known for many years how close transportation is to my heart. In my life, I’ve driven tanks, captained boats, mushed dogs, and flown planes, among other forms of transportation. I have always stood up for our state’s unique needs, and it is my great hope that this bipartisan infrastructure legislation helps America continue to lead the world and better compete with our adversaries.

I am grateful to everyone who helped make this bill a reality, including our own Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan. I urge the President to swiftly sign it into law so that we can get people to work, and build the infrastructure future our great nation deserves.


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