Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan spoke about his recent accomplishments, goals for improving the Alaska economy, and future challenges in Washington, D.C., during a presentation at the Kenai and Soldotna Joint Chamber Luncheon on Thursday afternoon.
Sullivan started the presentation by acknowledging the Kenai Peninsula as a bright spot for the state of Alaska.
“We’re obviously experiencing some continued challenges on the economic side, but so often the Kenai Peninsula is a bright spot for the state in a lot of ways year after year, even when other parts of the state are struggling,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan lauded the national economy, particularly the gross domestic product (GDP), under the Trump administration.
“If you’re looking at the numbers and have been seeing what’s been going on in our national economy, there’s been a dramatic change in the last 10 years,” Sullivan said. “I don’t want to be too political here, but I don’t think the previous administration was a friend to the Alaska economy. GDP growth is a measure of the strength of our economy, but it’s also the measure of the strength of the American Dream; what people believe, and what people see in the future.”
Sullivan said a strong economy is what makes America great.
“This has been the secret sauce of our nation,” Sullivan said.
To keep the economy of the nation strong, Sullivan said he’s been working toward putting forward more pro-economic growth policies, such as last year’s tax reform bill.
Sullivan also boasted about the nation’s unemployment rate, which he said it at a 50-year low.
Since 2010, U.S. unemployment has been on a steady decline, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to a Nov. 2 release, national unemployment rate stood at 3.7 percent.
“Certain categories of unemployment with Hispanics and African-Americans… it’s the lowest ever.”
As of October 2018, black or African-American unemployment rate was 6.2 percent, according to the BLS report, and the Hispanic unemployment rate stood at 4.4 percent.
He also discussed one of his recent bills — the Red Tape Act of 2017, which requires that for every new federal regulation a federal agency propagates, an equivalent regulation must be removed.
“If you look at a federal regulation chart — what’s happened there over the last 30 years — there are more and more regulations, and yet no one is looking at the regulations from the 1970s or 80s and saying, ‘Hey, do we still need these?’” Sullivan said. “So this (bill) says to agencies, if you’re going to propagate a new regulation, you got to get rid of an old regulation.”
After mentioning the bill to President Trump, Sullivan said Trump preferred that two old regulations be removed instead of just one.
“(Trump’s) actually like, ‘I like one in two out,’” Sullivan said. “So we amended it to be one in, two out. … This is not about cutting corners. This is not about polluting. This is common sense.”
Sullivan also spoke about U.S. military expansion in Alaska. In the next two years, Alaska will have over 100 fifth-generation fighters on state bases, he said.
“Fifth-generation fighters are the supersonic stealth fighters, F22s F35s,” Sullivan said. “We’ll have over a hundred. No place in the world will have a hundred fighters.”
Sullivan said he’s been successful in bringing Alaskans to Washington, D.C., to serve in federal positions of authority.
“We have been really successful in going to the Trump administration and saying, ‘Here are some really good Alaskans who want to serve, and pick up from our great state and move to the swamp and serve their country,’” Sullivan said. “For the most part, we’re doing really well on getting our people, our Alaskan officials, into very high-level jobs that benefit the country and really benefit us.”
He mentioned Joe Balash, who was recently confirmed as the Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management within the U.S. Department of Interior; Tara Mac Lean Sweeney, who was confirmed as the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the Interior Department; Chris Oliver, who was chosen to be the Assistant Administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service; and Chris Hladick, who was appointed as Region 10 Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.
Another act Sullivan recently worked on, and which was signed into law, is the Save Our Seas Act of 2018. The bill addresses ocean pollution, specifically plastic ocean debris.
“Almost all of (the debris) comes from Asia,” he said. “Actually five countries in Asia, actually 10 rivers in Asia – if you can believe that — account for the vast majority of pollution in our ocean,” Sullivan said. “There’s no state nailed by that more than us. You guys that go out and fish; you see it wash up on the shore.”
Sullivan said the bill funds more robust cleanup efforts, provides mechanisms for states to declare ocean debris emergencies and calls on the Trump administration to work toward national agreements with other countries regarding pollution.
“That’s literally what happens in a lot of these developing countries with strong economies,” Sullivan said. “They just push their debris and garbage into the rivers.”
One challenge Sullivan said the federal government is starting to address is the opioid epidemic.
“This is something that’s hitting so many families and it doesn’t matter who you are — black, white, Native, not Native, rich or poor,” Sullivan said. “It’s in every state, and our state isn’t being spared. I consider myself a fiscal conservative. On this issue, I have been really advocating for more federal funding. If we had a disease like Ebola rip through America and kill 74,000 people in one year, the federal government would be all over it in terms of helping to try and stop it.”
Sullivan said he just passed a bill that works to help with prevention and treatment.
“It’s a big problem, and it’s not going to go away anytime soon,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan said he’s also working on the POWER Act, which would require U.S. Attorney’s offices to promote pro bono legal services for survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence.
“This will sound jarring, but it’s truthful that if you’re an accused rapist, under the Sixth Amendment you get a right to counsel,” Sullivan said. “That’s what you get for free if you need it. The survivor, the victim, gets nothing. In my view, that’s just wrong. This bill will try and correct that.”
After the presentation, Sullivan told the Clarion he was pleased with the state’s election results Tuesday night.
“To me, the most important thing we can be doing right now in Alaska is bringing this real dynamic economy and economic growth to our state,” Sullivan said. “Super low unemployment, super high economic growth, which is what’s happening nationally. It really hasn’t hit us yet. I think we’re on the verge of hitting it.”
Sullivan said he was really glad Alaskans defeated Alaska Ballot Measure 1.
Nationally, election results were a mixed bag, he said.
“I’m not thrilled that Nancy Pelosi is going to be Speaker of the House,” Sullivan said. “She’s not somebody who cares about the Alaska economy. She’s somebody who wants to rescind the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge legislation. She won’t be able to do it, because the Senate and the Trump Administration wouldn’t allow it. I have doubts about her commitment to seriously continuing to rebuild the military, which is something that’s important to the state and nation. It looks like we expanded our majority, which I think is good for Alaska.”
Even with the U.S. House of Representatives having a Democrat majority, Sullivan expects to continue bipartisan efforts.
“I’m going to continue what I always do, which is reaching across the aisle on issues that I care about and that matter to Alaskans. I just hope that Speaker Pelosi will not be so extreme that she shuts down any kind of things like that.”