Sullivan: Trump’s emergency border wall money ‘probably legal’

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan rounds a corner on the second floor of the Alaska Capitol on his way to deliver his annual address to the Alaska Legislature, Feb. 21, 2019. He was escorted, just before entering the House chambers, by Rep. Josh Revak, R-Anchorage, left, and Sen. Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks, right. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

“Probably legal.” That’s U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan’s opinion on the national emergency President Donald 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. Murkowski, Congressman 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 applause.

Sullivan did not mention in his speech that some of that money could be sent instead to the southern border. When Trump declared the emergency, the White House announced his intention to 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.

A Gavel Alaska camera operator shoots U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R- Alaska, delivering his annual address to the Alaska Legislature in Juneau on Feb. 21, 2019. Gavel Alaska coverage of the event was broadcast live on television and on the web by 360 North.

A Gavel Alaska camera operator shoots U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R- Alaska, delivering his annual address to the Alaska Legislature in Juneau on Feb. 21, 2019. Gavel Alaska coverage of the event was broadcast live on television and on the web by 360 North. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

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.

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

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 Sen. 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 Alaska’s congressional delegation achieved, particularly when it comes to resource development. He called the annual address the most important speech he gives all year.

Watch the latest legislative coverage from Gavel Alaska:

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