Senator Sullivan Addresses Alaska Legislature

Highlights Key Pillars of Optimism for Alaska and Progress Being Made to Secure Social and Economic Future

Juneau, AK – On Monday, February 26, 2018, U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) spoke to a joint session of the Alaska Legislature. In his fourth address since taking office, Sullivan highlighted key pillars of optimism for Alaska and the progress being made to secure Alaska’s social and economic future.

Sullivan Addresses Alaska Legislature

 Senator Sullivan Addressing a Joint Session of the Alaska Legislature (click image or here to watch).

For full text of Senator Sullivan’s annual address (as prepared), click here.


Six Pillars of Optimism:


Federal Government as a Partner


  • We need a federal government that is a partner in opportunity, not an obstacle. The feds own more than 60 percent of Alaska lands, and at various points in history, have chosen to use this control as a weapon to stifle our economic opportunities.


  • Now, I disagree with a number of the statements and tweets made by President Trump, but in terms of a federal government that is finally working to help grow Alaska’s economy, we are making significant progress.


  • And the feds are also listening to us as we continue to place well-qualified Alaskans into the highest levels of the federal government to protect Alaska’s interests, and implement national policies.


  • Consider this: There are six assistant secretaries for the entire U.S. Department of Interior. Two of them—one third—will be Alaskans. That’s progress!


Strong Economy  


  • We want a vibrant economy that brings widespread prosperity to all Alaskans.


  • Last year, I told you that my number one focus would be on our economy. On the federal level, we’re making progress here too. In fact, we’re on the cusp of an Alaskan comeback.


  • We are on the cusp of becoming – once again – one of the hottest energy and resource plays in the world.


  • But we need to seize the opportunity now. At the federal level, we are putting the right policies and personnel in place, but it will largely be up to you to bring the investors here.


  • The decisions you make matter immensely. Just as this body’s decision to pass Senate Bill 21 resulted in more investment, more oil and more revenue, even as prices collapsed, the policies you enact here will dictate whether, or if, we will seize this moment of opportunity.


Healthy Communities


  • We want to live in healthy communities, with clean air and clean water and a pristine environment that supports thriving populations of fish and game.


  • A strong economy is worth nothing if it destroys our environment.


  • We’re also making progress on another important oceans issue, particularly here in Southeast, and that’s transboundary mining.


  • A few weeks ago, Lt. Gov. Mallott and I traveled to Canada to meet with cabinet officials to request specific action by Canada.


  • Our trip to Ottawa showed the Canadian government a powerful unity, which now includes the U.S. State Department whose officials are taking the transboundary mining issue much more seriously than the previous Administration ever did.


  • Healthy communities also mean access to affordable healthcare—a huge challenge in our state. 


  • There are principled differences and much debate on this issue. But even here we’ve made progress in the past year.


  • Thanks to your innovative legislation, the Trump Administration granted Alaska the first 1332 waiver of any state in the country.


  • The U.S. Congress recently voted to reauthorize CHIP—the block grant program which covers Alaskan kids in low-income families—for 10 years. And we’ve fully funded Community Health Centers which are so vital to our state.


  • We delayed the Affordable Care Act’s Cadillac Tax, which if it ever kicks in, will devastate Alaska’s fragile healthcare market. And we repealed the ACA’s individual mandate—which taxed Alaskans for not buying a product they couldn’t afford.


  • I know the Legislature is seriously looking at ways to bring those costs under control and so are we.


Safe Communities


  • We want to be safe in our homes, villages, neighborhoods, and schools.


  • We obviously have a lot of work to do in this area. I hear from Alaskans over and over again about cars stolen and houses broken into. Shootings on the streets.


  • We have to do everything we can do to protect our citizens. This also means making sure our kids are safe in their schools. The horrific high school shooting in Florida has scarred the conscious of our nation, and catalyzed an important national discussion on school safety.


  • Regardless of where we stand on these issues, young Americans across the country—some of whom are friends and families of the victims—who are talking about this issue, need to be applauded for their courage and deserve to be listened to.


  • I will carefully evaluate proposals on the federal level, however, as Alaskans, we understand how important our 2nd Amendment rights are. We use firearms not only for self-defense, but as a tool to feed our families.


  • We also have to get at the root causes of the crime wave sweeping many Alaska communities. The opioid epidemic and gangs related to the drug trade are some.


  • I’ve been very focused on all aspects of the opioid crisis. Two years ago, we hosted a Wellness Summit at the Mat-Su College, where hundreds of Alaskans gathered to listen, gain inspiration, learn and exchange ideas.


  • So we are planning another Wellness Summit this summer—this time focused not just on our addiction epidemic, but on combatting the crime wave that is victimizing so many Alaskans. Stay tuned. We’ll need your help and input.


 Frontline of Freedom


  • We want to be the frontline of freedom and defense for America. Given our strategic location, and our large veteran population, in many ways, Alaska seems destined to play this critical role. 


  • We are the cornerstone of our nation’s missile defense, the hub of air combat power and training for the Asia-Pacific and the Arctic, and a vital expeditionary platform for some of America's best-trained troops.


  • And we’re building on Alaska’s three military pillars.


  • Using my seat on the Armed Services Committee, and Senator Murkowski’s position on the Appropriations Committee, in the past three years we’ve secured over $1 billion for military construction in our state—including $200 million to build a new missile field at Fort Greely as part of a broader missile defense bill I authored last year.


  • These military investments are critical for America’s security, but they will also have the added benefit of providing good-paying jobs for hundreds if not thousands of Alaskans.


  • The frontline of freedom in Alaska also includes some unsung heroes who don’t get the attention they deserve—the men and women of the United States Coast Guard.


  • The Coast Guard is undergoing a major recapitalization of its fleet. As the Chairman of the Subcommittee in charge of the Coast Guard, I’ve been working with the Coast Guard’s leadership to ensure that this recapitalization will mean more Coast Guard ships, aircraft, and personnel for communities across our great state.



Land of the Future


  • We want to be a land of the future—where opportunities are unleased for our families and our children that we can’t begin to fathom today. 


  • We have a great diversity of people and cultures. We have a geography and climate worthy of study by the finest scientific minds. We have the promise of a new Arctic frontier. We have a midnight sun in the summer, and in the winter, electrically charged particles dance in our skies!


  • We can ski to our office—on world class cross-country ski trails—that produce Olympic Gold Medalists. (Can we give a big round of applause to Kikkan.)


  • And on the weekends, adventure beckons: we climb mountains, snow machine, fish our salmon choked rivers, pick berries on our tundra, and hunt to put food on the table.


  • Alaska has always been a place that celebrates big ideas and big thinkers with a unique combination of frontier and entrepreneurial spirit. Let’s never lose that. Cynicism can dampen and extinguish that unique Alaska fire. Whatever we do, or don’t do, let’s not let that happen to us.


  • So what are we doing in D.C. to keep that fire burning?


  • Most recently, we’ve passed historic tax legislation. Middle class Alaskans will see hundreds of dollars more in take home pay each month, which will help our families offset Permanent Fund Dividend cuts.


  • This is real money for our middle class families and workers.


  • We should always remember that entrepreneurs can live anywhere in the country to start new businesses. Our unique attributes can attract and keep the best and most adventurous, spirited and creative people in the world.


  • We must ensure that our policies welcome those who come North to the Future.


  • This morning, I’ve tried to lay out a vision of what a bright future for Alaska should and could look like. I would love to hear what opportunities you are seeing across our state.


  • One thing I know, and I think you do to: There is no limit to what we can achieve, when we nurture and cultivate our big ideas and our frontier spirit—rooted in the kind of practicality and creativity that comes from living in extreme and remote environments—the kind of practicality that built Alaska.