Sullivan weighs in on border wall, proposed state budget cuts

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, addressed the Alaska Food Festival and Conference on March 8, 2019.

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, addressed the Alaska Food Festival and Conference on March 8, 2019. (Photo by Jeff Lockwood/KBBI)

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan spoke at the Alaska Food Festival and Conference in Homer Friday and met with local press. The Republican senator highlighted his legislative victories surrounding resource development and his support for military projects.

During the conference, Sullivan painted himself as an ally to food producers and said he supported work on food security in Alaska.

He highlighted his efforts to modify the National School Lunch Program. The program helps schools purchase American-grown food.

“If the federal government is going to be helping buy products for our children in school lunches throughout the country, it’s traditionally been an issue where we want those products to be from American farms,” he said.

Historically, Russian pollock has made its way into the U.S. through China. That allowed schools to purchase the foreign-caught species after it’s processed domestically into fish sticks, but Sullivan said those products will no longer be considered domestic under a provision in a large farm bill passed back in December.

“My big thing was to just close the loophole, which was a huge loophole. It, like, dominated the entire school lunch program, which was fish that wasn’t from America,” he said. “And the whole point of the Buy American program and the school lunch program is to promote American (agriculture) and fishing. So we were just glad to be able to shut that down.”

In a meeting with local press, Sullivan highlighted other legislative victories he said were aided by the Trump administration.

“We got ANWR open, which is a 40-year quest,” he said.

Sullivan also wants to maintain money that Congress allocated for military projects in Alaska.

However, President Donald Trump’s plan to divert $3.6 billion from military construction funding to the building of a barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border could hamper funding for military construction in the state.

“Congressman (Don) Young and I sent a letter to the president on that very issue, and we’re still requesting information on that,” he said. “So we’re very focused on it, and I can say that because, as I mentioned at the outset, there’s a lot of really important military construction that’s going on in Alaska.”

Sullivan said that even if the president’s plan moves forward, he does not expect military projects in the state to be affected. And he has not said publicly how he will vote on a resolution to reverse Trump’s use of an emergency declaration to utilize military construction dollars for a border wall.

As for Alaska politics, Sullivan declined to comment on Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed budget. The spending plan proposes far-reaching cuts.

Sullivan encouraged the state Legislature to stray from any proposed cuts that would impact federal spending in the state, including matches through the federal highway program.

“There’s a 90/10 match on that,” he said. “Ninety percent (federal), 10 percent state. So if it’s $750 million, the state would need to make sure that it passed $75 million in highway spending. Well, to me, that’s a very good investment.”

Sullivan also met with Homer city officials, veterans and other local groups on Friday.

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