Scott Sales, a state Senator and president of the Senate, said that he’s going to sponsor a bill to appropriate $8 million in state money to help build the wall.
“I think this is such a critical issue at a critical time that it behooves us to take a look at maybe prompting Congress to do what they should do,” Sales told MTN News. “And, in a small token way, providing a little bit of financial resources to get that job done.”
President Donald Trump is seeking $5.7 billion in funding for the border wall, but Democrats have refused to give him any money for the wall, leading to the current partial government shutdown.
Sales said that the $8 million Montana would send to the federal government is an equal fraction of $5 billion, accounting for Montana’s share of the national economy.
He added that he calculated Montana’s “share” of the cost of the wall by dividing the state’s gross domestic product by the national GDP and multiplying it by $5 billion.
No other states have proposed helping fund the wall through state monies but a GoFundMe fundraiser for the wall, collecting funds from private citizens who want to help build the barrier, raised more than $20 million. That money was slated to be refunded after the fundraiser organizer said his team discovered the federal government couldn’t accept the money in a timely fashion and that he’d formed a nonprofit to use the funds.
The South Dakota Senate on Thursday passed a resolution that urges the construction of the barrier in support of Trump.
Sales said that he would introduce the legislation despite a likely veto by Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock if it passes the Senate.
“If the governor just wants to veto it, out of hand, that’s his prerogative. But he has ideas that he thinks that are of state importance, and I happen to think this does, too,” he told MTN. “It’s a sincere effort. This isn’t something I’m doing on a whim to try to garner a headline. I’ve supported this concept (and) I think a lot of Americans voted for President Trump, and Montanans, on this one concept alone.”
Bullock said he respects Sales, but “I don’t know that he has ever strongly advocated for or supported infrastructure investments in Montana, so it’s a little bit of a puzzle for me why he would even consider spending taxpayer dollars on construction projects in California.”
The wall would span parts of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Bullock would not commit to vetoing the bill if it lands on his desk.
Montana’s House Minority Leader Casey Schreiner, a Democrat, said the Legislature should focus its spending on Montana’s roads, building, water and sewer projects.
“State dollars are a finite resource; we had draconian cuts for human services,” he told MTN. “Yet we’re going to send money out-of-state for some unknown reason. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
“That’s a lot of school roofs and boilers,” added Democratic Rep. Laurie Bishop about the proposed $8 million.
Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in Montana by 20 points but the state re-elected Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) in the midterm elections despite Trump’s multiple rallies for Tester’s opponent across the state.
Tester is one of at least four Democrats who said while campaigning for the midterms that they support the wall.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.