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West Virginia, Montana, Arizona Debate Using State Money to Help Build Border Wall

Republicans in four state legislatures are offering support to President Trump as he tries to get House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to support $5.7 billion in federal funding to build a border barrier where the U.S. and Mexico meet.

Three of the state proposals include millions of dollars to help Trump block the border with a barrier or a wall. The fourth offers moral support.

Montana Senate President Scott Sales (R) wants to give President Trump $8 million in state money to help construct a wall along the southern U.S. border.

Sales admitted sending $8 million to a $5.7 billion project is “a very small contribution,” and more “symbolic” than anything else. Still, Sales said, “Border security should be something that's on the forefront of all legislatures whether they're state or federal.”

"Even a state like Montana, with a small population and being a long ways from the southern border, we'd be remiss to think there aren't impacts to the state by illegal immigration,” Sales told CNN.

House Minority Leader Casey Schreiner doesn’t like Sales’ proposals. The Democrat said Montana can’t afford to send $8 million out of state.

“State dollars are a finite resource; we had draconian cuts for human services (during the 2017 special session),” Schreiner told MTN News. “Yet we’re going to send money out-of-state for some unknown reason. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Sales submitted two bills just after the Montana Legislature began its 2019 session. The first is a resolution that expresses support for construction of the border wall. The second is a spending bill for the $8 million border wall allocation.

“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,” Sales told MTN.

Resolutions are always non-binding. Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock won’t have much to say about it. But Bullock could stop the other bill, the one for $8 million.

“If the governor just wants to veto it, out of hand, that’s his prerogative,” Sales said. “But he has ideas that he thinks are of state importance, and I happen to think this does, too.”

West Virginia Del. Carl Martin filed a bill that calls for sending $10 million in state funds to the border wall construction project.

“We have been in contact with multiple law enforcement officers and judges about the drug epidemic, and every single one has told us 90 percent of the drugs coming to our state are coming in from Mexico,” said Martin.

Del. Caleb Hanna, who co-sponsored the bill, along with Carl Martin’s brother, Del. Patrick Martin, said sending money to Washington for President Trump’s wall shouldn’t be any different than ordering Montana’s National Guard into action along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We, as a state, have resources available to help make America more secure, and I believe West Virginians would want those resources used to make us more safe,” Hanna told “Fox and Friends.”

But Democratic Del. Dave Pethtel questioned whether Montana’s constitution allowed the state to give money to the federal government.

Republican Del. Ray Hollen doesn’t support Martin’s proposal either, even if he does like the idea of building a wall along the southern border.

“I support President Trump’s border wall agenda,” said Hollen “But with that, I cannot support giving $10 million of West Virginia’s taxpayer money toward that, when we have our (own) obligations to take care of.”

Another Republican, Del. John Kelly, predicted Martin’s bill will “never see the light of day.”

“The Legislature is not going to send $10 million of West Virginia taxpayer money to the federal government for a project in Arizona, or Texas or California or New Mexico,” said Kelly.

Arizona state Rep. Gail Griffin (R) wants to help pay for the border wall, too. Her proposal, HB 2444, has an interesting twist. The legislation would force state residents to pay a $20 fee to watch porn on new computers, tablets or phones. Under her proposal, that money could then be devoted to the border wall project.

The South Dakota Legislature passed a resolution “urging Congress and the President to fund construction of steel barriers and border control impediments along with the strengthening of current border control infrastructure, and urging Congress and the President to ensure compliance with and enforcement of federal immigration laws.”

Rep. Tony Randolph (R) pointed to “regular criminal activity…human sex trafficking… also the opioid epidemic,” as reasons he supported the resolution.

“Some of those are the results of our porous southern border,” Randolph said. “Closing the border at least will stop the frequency of those things coming to us, or at least deter those things."

The resolution doesn’t call for any South Dakota money to be spent on the wall, but Democratic state Rep. Ray Ring still doesn’t like the proposal. He cited the oft-quoted “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses” from the Statue of Liberty to explain his vote against the resolution.

“It doesn't say, 'except those from certain countries,’” Ring said. “It simply says, 'Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’”

What about Texas? The Lone Star State shares 1,200 miles of border with Mexico. Surely the GOP is going to show some sign of support for Trump’s plan.

The Texas Tribune reported some people in the Texas Capitol Plaza were shouting “build a wall” while Republican Gov. Greg Abbott gave his inauguration address, Jan. 15. But Abbott began his second term without mentioning the border wall debate.

GOP state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst told the Associated Press the Texas Legislature is “very focused on the needs of Texans and issues that I think resonate back home with our constituents.”

That isn’t to say Texas Republicans are going to abandon President Trump. But Kolkhorst said when it comes to sending money to build the wall, Texas has done “all that we can as a state.”

But Democratic state Rep. Rafael Anchia told the AP there’s more behind the Texas GOP’s reluctance to float a money proposal to help build the wall.

“They knew they were being intellectually dishonest last time,” Anchia said. “But now it no longer is to their benefit.”

Like Governor Abbott, Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen (R) didn’t mention building a border wall in his opening remarks Jan. 15.

Instead, he accused the federal government of being “steeped in gridlock and partisanship.”

“For Washington, politics has become more important than people,” Bonnen said. “But unlike Washington, Texas stands apart. We lead the nation by doing things our way.”