Montana lawmaker proposes to give $8M to build border wall
By AMY BETH HANSON
HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A Republican lawmaker in Montana is proposing to give more than $8 million to help build President Donald Trump's proposed wall on the Mexican border, while South Dakota senators voted Thursday to endorse the president's plans.
As Trump traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border Thursday to make his case for $5.7 billion to build the wall in the government shutdown's 20th day, state lawmakers in some parts of Trump Country are backing him up with their own legislation.
Their efforts are mostly symbolic. The resolution passed in the South Dakota Senate simply urges construction of a steel barrier. The separate $8 million proposal in Montana would have little chance of getting past a Democratic governor who is exploring a run for president.
Scott Sales, a fiscally conservative Republican who leads the Montana Senate, says his proposal is a "small token" to show border security "is of vital interest to all citizens regardless of what state they live in."
Gov. Steve 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."
Bullock, who said $8 million would go a long way to fund health care or infrastructure work in Montana, declined to say whether he'd veto the bill if it landed on his desk.
"Congress is basically dragging their heels over $5 billion, which is really trivial compared to what we spend on an annual basis," Sales said Wednesday in explaining his funding proposal.
Sales said 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 $5.7 billion.
Montana's $8 million wouldn't go very far, with Trump's $5.7 billion request expected to build 234 miles (377 kilometers) of wall.
House Minority Leader Casey Schreiner, a Democrat, said the Legislature should focus its spending on Montana's roads, building, water and sewer projects.
"That's a lot of school roofs and boilers," added Democratic Rep. Laurie Bishop.
Montana, where Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by 20 points, shares a 545-mile (877-kilometer) border with Canada, where there is no wall.
Sales also has sponsored a resolution that would ask Congress to act on the funding.
If the stalemate in Washington continues, the president said he's willing to consider declaring a national emergency, which he says would allow him to direct the military to begin building the wall.
AP writer James Nord in Pierre, South Dakota, contributed to this report.
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