Economics, regulation and the military ruled the conversation during Sen. Dan Sullivan’s speech to the joint Kenai and Soldotna chambers of commerce luncheon on Wednesday.
Sullivan, who has just completed his first year in Washington, D.C., presented a crowd of about 80 with a rundown of his views on the current national political situation. Because it is the holiday season, he said he wanted to focus on the positive while still touching on future challenges.
“Believe it or not, you can sometimes get a sense that people are focused on the negative, but I thought it would be good to focus on what a lot of people do over the holidays, on our blessings,” Sullivan said. “I think a lot of us would agree as Alaskans, as Americans, we are truly blessed.”
Sullivan said he is not satisfied with the current economic growth in the country, which hovers around 2 percent annually. The gross domestic product, which measures the overall value of everything produced in the country, has grown far more in prior decades than it is now, and Sullivan said overregulation is limiting economic growth.
He said he plans to target overregulation in the coming year. He referenced a bill he sponsored and introduced in August called the RED Tape Act, which would require any federal agency to include sunset clauses in any new regulations. It would also direct agencies to review their rules and consider repealing them if they have become obsolete, he said.
“It’s not just the latest regulation — it’s also how long things take in Washington,” Sullivan said. “I think a lot of this is self-inflicted. Nobody should want this, because it doesn’t help our economy.”
Setting too many hurdles for businesses to jump through limits economic growth, Sullivan said. He cited a statistic from a 2010 Small Business Administration report that federal regulations cost $1.75 trillion as of 2008.
Reining in regulatory agencies would help boost economic growth, which Sullivan said will help average Americans as well as the overall economy. He also expressed concerns about the national debt, which is projected to exceed $20 trillion by the end of next year.
A federal program that does need growth is the military, Sullivan said. Growing threats from the Islamic State and the possibility of Iranian nuclear capability increase the need for national security in his mind, he said. More recruitment into the armed forces should be a priority, he said.
Sullivan, a Marine, said he would continue to push for better treatment of veterans as well.
“I am somebody that believes that in many areas, the federal government should be doing less … but in terms of taking care of our veterans, I think our government should be doing more,” Sullivan said. “I know for the veterans, it’s been a frustration. We’re definitely not there yet, but it’s something that I’m working on on a daily basis to get the attention of the senior Veterans Affairs to take better care of our veterans.”
Though he has not backed a Republican candidate for the 2016 election yet, with the primary only six weeks away, Sullivan said he had told some of the candidates that he would support them if they came to Alaska to campaign.
“I’ve been somebody who’s kept my powder dry,” Sullivan said. “I’ve told them, ‘One thing that would be really helpful for me is if you came up to Alaska to campaign.’”
Reach Elizabeth Earl at firstname.lastname@example.org.