We reported earlier about one topic covered during Sen. Dan Sullivan’s town hall meeting in Ketchikan, but other issues were discussed.
During his town hall meeting in Ketchikan earlier this month, Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan spent some time before taking questions giving a rundown of what’s been happening in Congress.
Sullivan said he’s been preaching optimism throughout the state.’
“I’ve said this many times: I don’t agree with everything the president put out there. I certainly don’t like the tweets that insult people. I’ve called for those to stop. That’s not how you get things done,” he said. “But in terms of them, the feds, trying to help us – particularly our economy – we’re seeing a sea-change.”
Sullivan said reasons for optimism include tax reform, increased tourism, and the potential for more resource development – especially in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Sullivan also touted military spending in Alaska, which he said has exceeded a billion dollars.
“Over the last three years, we’ve significantly increased what I call the three pillars of Alaska’s military might – the cornerstone of missile defense, which is more important than ever with regard to what’s going on in North Korea and Iran,” he said. “We are the hub of air combat power for the Asia-Pacific and the Arctic. And we are a platform for expeditionary forces that can go anywhere because of our strategic location and airlift on a moment’s notice.”
And in Southeast, he said the U.S. Coast Guard is getting recapitalized with new vessels and other equipment.
When the meeting opened up for questions, an audience member asked about health insurance. Ruth Hill said premiums are too expensive for her son and his family.
Sullivan agreed health insurance is too costly, and touted Congress’s vote to remove part of the Affordable Care Act that requires people to have health insurance, or pay a penalty.
“I just thought that was a very, very, very unfair policy to really penalize people who could least afford the penalty,” he said. “The stats show – across America, over 7 million people paid that penalty and 80 percent of those people made $50,000 or less (a year).”
Sullivan said the way to decrease health costs is controlling prescription drug prices and reducing the number of lawsuits.
Ralph Samuels of Holland America happened to be in town, and thanked Sullivan for catching and removing a provision in the federal tax bill that would have added a multi-million-dollar tax on Alaska cruises.
Sullivan said his office spotted that when reviewing the bill, and fought it aggressively.
“This is supposed to be a bill about bringing capital to America, making us more competitive, and you’re raising taxes on one of the biggest industries in my state?” he said. “And it’s almost exclusively on my state?”
Ghert Abbott questioned Sullivan about why the government had money to pay for tax cuts, but not for proposed Medicaid programs.
“To me, there seems to be a fundamental contradiction here, where there’s no money for Medicaid, which many people in the state rely upon, and plenty of money to hand out to wealthy, well-connected people and large corporations,” he said. “Why is that?”
Sullivan said Medicaid is unsustainable in its current level of spending. He said he supports the program overall, but wants to make changes so it will become sustainable.
Van Abbott also asked about the tax bill. He wondered why Sullivan supported a measure that will add so much to the nation’s budget deficit.
Sullivan said he doesn’t believe it will be as much as predicted. He said the Congressional Budget Office made that prediction assuming an economic growth rate of 1.8 percent.
“My view is, we have to do, and we can to way better than 1.8 percent GDP growth,” he said. “Even under the CBO score, if we hit 2.4 under the CBO scoring, of that $1.5 trillion that both of you mention, we break even on that.”
Sullivan is Alaska’s junior senator. He took office in 2015, replacing Democrat Mark Begich.
You can read our earlier report about the meeting, focused on the topic of gun regulations. Here’s a link to that story.