FAIRBANKS, Alaska. (KTVF) Senator Dan Sullivan was in Fairbanks this week while Congress was in recess. We sat down with him to talk about a variety of issues including some of President Trump's decisions regarding the budget.
There were reports of the Trump Administration rerouting funding from Department of Defense projects to the border wall. Sullivan reassured residents that it would not affect Alaska's military buildup.
"Whatever might be happening there, we're certainly looking to backfill that, but the trajectory on military building in Alaska is clearly going up. It's going up for the country, it's going up in terms of American readiness and the lethality of our troops,” said Sullivan."
In President Trump's proposed budget, he used the Permanent Fund Dividend as a justification to eliminate a few regional commissions including the Denali Commission.
"Well look... we say in the Congress, the president proposes, the congress disposes. At the end of the day, those budget decisions will be made in the halls of congress, and the president's budget is an outline. You know the president's budget has previously targeted the Denali Commission, and you might have seen the Denali Commission under our leadership -- and I'm talking about the congressional delegation -- has more than doubled. So I'm quite confident the Denali Commission isn't going anywhere,” said Sullivan.
He says they are going to continue to fund the Denali Commission because it is important to the community.
“We’re going to continue to make sure this budget reflects the priorities -- particularly military spending [and] infrastructure spending -- that matter to our state. I’m confident that we’re going to continue the positive trend,” said Sullivan.
Sullivan does think people can sometimes misunderstand the purpose of the dividend.
"I think it comes from both Democrats and Republicans sometimes. I hear it from my colleagues 'hey wait a minute, you guys have this PFD,' but remember the PFD was kind of much more 'keep government streamlined'. Should all money that comes from federal revenues, particularly oil revenues, go directly back to the government? The brilliance of the PFD and Permanent Fund program is that the answer was 'no, let's make sure the people directly benefit from that'," said Sullivan.
Sullivan says he will continue to make the case for the purpose of the PFD.
“As a matter of fact I also hear from some of my colleagues [that] it’s actually a really good idea to make sure the people directly benefit from resource development,” said Sullivan.
Sullivan also expressed frustration at Senate Democrats who wrote a letter to banks in an effort to block ANWR development.
“I’ve had a number of discussions with my colleagues, the ones who wrote that letter. As a matter of fact I wrote all of them back saying you need to talk to me about this because your views are almost, well I think, quite ignorant -- and we need to make sure that they’re not undermining our economic opportunities, which I think are significant in our state,” said Sullivan.
Sullivan said he is focusing on the strength of the economy.
“Right now the federal government wants to help us, and wants to be a partner in opportunity for Alaska whether it’s on more access, whether it’s on things as simple as the King Cove Road. The previous administration’s secretary of interior said ‘someone needs to look out for the birds’, not the people, so we are not going to build that road. Well to me that is absurd. We are not doing that kind of thing anymore. We are trying to help our economy, help families, and help workers. When the federal government is aligned with the state on a strong economy in Alaska, I think that’s really important,” said Sullivan.
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