Alaska’s Senator Sullivan: President Trump’s emergency wall money ‘probably legal’

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan speaks to reporters after giving his annual address to a joint session of the Alaska Legislature on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019, in Juneau, Alaska. Sullivan said he thinks U.S. President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to build a wall on the border to Mexico was ‘probably legal”, but that he thought it wasn’t necessary. (Becky Bohrer/AP Photo)
“Probably legal” – That’s U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan’s opinion on the emergency President Trump declared to redirect money to the southern border. But Sullivan is worried about the projects the money will be diverted from.

“I would have concerns, particularly if it’s coming out of Alaska military construction, which is not only important for our state,” Sullivan told reporters in Juneau Thursday. “It’s really important for the national security of our country.”

In his annual address to the state Legislature, Sullivan highlighted military spending in Alaska as a reason to hope the state’s economy is finally on the rise.

“In just the past three and a half years, Sen. [Lisa] Murkowski, Congressman [Don] Young and I have been able to secure over $1.3 billion in military construction for our state, including the F-35s to Eielson [Air Force Base] and a new missile field at Fort Greely,” Sullivan said, to ringing applause.

Border situation a “crisis”

Sullivan did not mention in his speech that some of that money could be sent instead to the southern border, because when Trump declared the emergency, the White House announced his intention take $3.6 billion from military construction accounts.

At a press conference after his address, a reporter asked Sullivan about Trump’s emergency declaration.

“It’s probably legal but I don’t think it was needed,” Sullivan said, referring to other money Trump can spend without an emergency declaration.

Sullivan called the situation at the border a “crisis.”

“I’ve been supportive of the president’s request for robust funding for barriers, fences, the wall, border security – however you want to describe it.” Sullivan said.

He said he’s inquired about the Alaska projects and he’s drafting a letter to the White House.

No comment on state budget

Sen. Lisa Murkowski addressed the Legislature Tuesday. She expressed reservations about the emergency declaration, and about some of the budget cuts Gov. Mike Dunleavy is proposing.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski speaks to reporters after delivering a speech to a joint session of the Alaska Legislature on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019, in Juneau, Alaska. During the news conference, the Alaska Republican expressed concerns with President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to secure more money for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. (Becky Bohrer/AP Photo)

Sullivan told a reporter he wasn’t going to weigh in on the governor’s budget. He did, though, highlight the advantage of retaining state expenditures that leverage more federal money, like for certain transportation projects.

“We’re close to 700 million coming to the state of Alaska from federal highway dollars,” Sullivan said. “It was a really good bill that Don Young and Senator Murkowski and I got done for the state. I think the match there is 10 percent. You would probably think that’s a good investment by the state.”

Sullivan recounted for the Legislature many of the goals he and the rest of the Congressional delegation achieved, particularly when it comes to resource development. He calls the annual address the most important speech he gives all year.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Small deficit projected in Northwest Territories budget, CBC News

Finland: Budget cuts threaten international Sámi language cooperation, Yle News

Russia: Regional government in northwestern Russia slashes budget by 5%, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Swedish PM Stefan Löfven unveils new cabinet, Radio Sweden

United States: Alaska budget: senator Murkowski cool to governor Dunleavy’s proposed cuts, Alaska Public Media

Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media

For more news from Alaska visit Alaska Public Media.

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