Montana Senate President Scott Sales plans to introduce a bill that would have the state of Montana direct $8 million in funding to a wall along the U.S. southern border.
While northern Montana is contiguous with Canada, the Bozeman Republican said Wednesday he has asked for a bill draft to help build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, something long called for by Republican President Donald Trump. The request for legislation was first reported by the Montana Television Network.
Funding for the wall triggered a federal government shutdown that entered its 17th day Wednesday. Trump wants $5.7 billion for about 200 miles of wall, something Democrats will not support.
Sales said Wednesday night the state of Montana, which went through large budget cuts in 2017 but saw some of the reductions restored over the last year, can afford to pitch in $8 million.
"It's just providing for the ability for us to approve around $8 million in funding for the border wall," Sales said. "We have, just within the current rate of revenue that's coming in, we can afford to pay for the $8 million."
Sales added that if Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock believes the state has $30 million to spend on a public preschool program, the state could also help pay for a border wall. The preschool funding is in the governor's budget proposal.
Asked about Montana's border with Canada, Sales said, "I don't think we've ever really had much of a problem with Canadians coming illegally into the U.S."
Sales said he couldn't speak for the governor when asked if he thought Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock would veto the bill. Sales is also bringing a resolution, which the governor cannot veto, calling for support of the wall.
House Minority Leader Casey Schreiner, a Democrat, said Wednesday that he didn’t support Sales’ bill.
“Let’s prioritize building stuff in Montana, which we’ve unfortunately not been able to do, and not focus on spending money out of state,” Schreiner said, referencing failed infrastructure bills in the last several legislative sessions.
Earlier this week on the Montana Talks radio program, hosted by Aaron Flint, Sales said he was considering a bid for Secretary of State in 2020. Last week current Secretary of State Corey Stapleton announced he won't seek a second term and is instead running for governor.