Rep. Bart LeBon, R-Fairbanks, listens to Juneau Police Chief Ed Mercer during a community meeting on the governor’s budget organized by the House Finance Committee at the Alaska State Capitol on Friday, March 22, 2019. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Rep. Bart LeBon, R-Fairbanks, listens to Juneau Police Chief Ed Mercer during a community meeting on the governor’s budget organized by the House Finance Committee at the Alaska State Capitol on Friday, March 22, 2019. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Capitol Live: Members of public say they’d take smaller or no PFD

Live updates from inside the Capitol.

9:05 p.m.

Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, has been tweeting about constituent emails quite a bit lately. She says an overwhelming amount have been critical of the governor’s budget.

— Alex McCarthy

8:10 p.m.

The public comment session ended at about 7:50 p.m., after 68 people had testified, according to legislative staffers’ counts. Almost all of them were critical of the governor’s budget in varying degrees.

The ending was a little odd, as Ortiz went out of his way to recognize Rep. Bart LeBon, R-Fairbanks, who stayed in town tonight for this meeting. He heads up to the Mat-Su tomorrow for another listening session, then heads up to Fairbanks for another session on Sunday. LeBon also gave a brief bio to the people who were still in attendance. He apparently came up to Alaska because the University of Alaska Fairbanks offered him a two-year basketball scholarship. As someone who used to cover college sports, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a two-year athletic scholarship. Anyway, the crowd applauded LeBon being there and the meeting adjourned.

[Read our full story on the meeting here]

— Alex McCarthy

7:30 p.m.

Brian Holst, executive director of the Juneau Economic Development Council and president of the Juneau Board of Education, says he views this budget as “trading away too much for too little return.” He points out that state spending will contribute more directly to the state’s economy than depending on people spending their dividends in state.

— Alex McCarthy

7:06 p.m.

Angus Andrews, a young child, steps to the microphone with his father.

“I don’t think my teachers and other teachers deserves 30 kids or more,” he says.

There’s a nice little applause for him.

— Alex McCarthy

7:01 p.m.

City and Borough of Juneau Assembly member Alicia Hughes-Skandijs is speaking just as a resident and not as an Assembly member. She echoes many of the thoughts that have already been shared, volunteering to pay an income tax.

“I think we need a more predictable revenue stream,” Hughes-Skandijs says.

She points out that as more and more hearings happen, it’s clearer to her that there was very little planning that went into the budget proposal.

— Alex McCarthy

6:55 p.m.

Juneau resident Jon Lyman talks about how this budget proposal is dividing people over money and it saddens him to see. He salutes the representatives.

“You really are some of the best people to take this burden on, this fight on right now,” Lyman says.

He also says that he understands that there are many people in rural communities especially who need as much as they can get from the PFD.

“Pay the full PFD, and take it away from me,” Lyman says. “Give me a graduated income tax.”

— Alex McCarthy

6:50 p.m.

Bradley Perkins, the general manager of St. Vincent de Paul in Juneau, speaks “on behalf of homeless and maybe the to-be homeless under the budget cuts.”

He refers to SVDP as “the backstop” for the community, and says that if social services get cut, more people will be out on the street and more people will be forced to use SVDP’s resources, which are already stretched thin.

— Alex McCarthy

6:45 p.m.

Juneau resident Jan Caulfield, who recently moderated a town hall with Juneau’s legislators, shares her thoughts.

“I’m truly frightened by the governor’s proposal…it’s a proposal that showed no vision, no analysis, no statesmanship. It’s just a shock to all of us,” Caulfield says.

— Alex McCarthy

6:38 p.m.

I didn’t catch the man’s name, but we have one of our best lines of the night: “I feel the same way about the governor’s budget as the president’s tweets. I would like to ignore them both.”

— Alex McCarthy

6:30 p.m.

Juneau resident, business owner, filmmaker, and lots of other things Pat Race testified earlier and sums up the scene well here in this tweet.

Race’s testimony pointed out that Alaskans don’t necessarily have to choose between the PFD and state services. A state income tax or finding other revenue sources would allow both to stay, he says.

— Alex McCarthy

6:15 p.m.

Juneau resident Joe Geldhof, never hesitant to share his opinion, says Alaska has a revenue problem more than anything. He also says the PFD is vital to diversifying the state’s economy and supporting rural communities. He says that for people like him or others in cities, they can give up their PFD and still do fine.

“There are large numbers of people who can’t, and we urge you to pay the full Permanent Fund Dividend,” Geldhof says.

— Alex McCarthy

6:10 p.m.

Much of the talk tonight is not about cuts, but about revenue. Many testifiers have said they’d be willing to pay an income tax or to take a reduced PFD.

In reference to cuts, Douglas resident Richard Steele pointed out that even just the proposed cuts are scaring people.

“Cuts are already diminishing morale in our state,” Steele says.

— Alex McCarthy

6:02 p.m.

Juneau Police Chief Ed Mercer testifies, urging the Legislature to fund more prosecutors and support the Department of Law.

— Alex McCarthy

5:40 p.m.

Alaska Coalition on Housing and Homelessness Executive Director Brian Wilson comments as well, detailing how cuts to certain state programs would gut homeless efforts across the state.

We wrote about this in Sunday’s paper, and included thoughts and statistics from Wilson. Read that here.

— Alex McCarthy

5:36 p.m.

Stella Tallman (if I heard that name correctly), the junior class president at JDHS, says her AP U.S. History class has 36 students in it, which makes it difficult to learn effectively.

“The cuts proposed would really just decimate the services and staff and programs that help us at school every day,” she says.

Eran Hood, a University of Alaska Southeast professor, testifies that funding the university is “tremendously important.” He says he sees a lot of students who want to live here and work here, and cuts to the university would take that opportunity away from many students. Here in the overflow room where I am, he gets a light round of applause. That’s the first time people in here have clapped thus far.

— Alex McCarthy

5:30 p.m.

Chuck Bill, the CEO of Juneau’s Bartlett Regional Hospital, says this budget cuts $242 million of funding to Medicaid, which would cost the state $700 million in federal funding.

“The cost to the providers is huge,” Bill says. “It’s outrageous. What that does to Bartlett in particular is at the governor’s numbers, we’re predicting a $6-7.6 million hit to Bartlett alone.”

Bill says Bartlett operated at a $100,000 loss last year, so it’s budget is already tight. At a time when they want to add more services for patients, these cuts would be terrible news for the hospital.

— Alex McCarthy

5:26 p.m.

Vicki Jo Kennedy, a Kodiak resident and a regular figure around the Capitol, gives a cheeky testimony comparing Alaska to all of the photos of sunken boats that are on the walls of the Capitol.

On a more serious note, she points to Juneau Police Chief Ed Mercer and Juneau Deputy Police Chief David Campbell in the back of the room, saying they “especially can’t lose any funding.”

— Alex McCarthy

Members of the public wait to share their thoughts on the governor’s budget to the House Finance Committee at the Alaska State Capitol on Friday, March 22, 2019. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Members of the public wait to share their thoughts on the governor’s budget to the House Finance Committee at the Alaska State Capitol on Friday, March 22, 2019. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

5:22 p.m.

Elton Lawson gets this public comment session started with a forceful testimony. He says he believes Dunleavy broke campaign promises with this budget. He says he believes this is designed to transfer Alaska’s public money to big oil companies.

“I will not pay one dime for corporate welfare for big oil,” Lawson says.

— Alex McCarthy

5:20 p.m.

Ortiz wraps up, finally saying “it’s about time to get started.” He also mentions that there are two overflow rooms now. One is just down the hall and the other is three floors down and across the skybridge in the Thomas Stewart Building.

Ortiz says that they’re open to any opinion that people have.

“Feel free to give us any direction that you want,” Ortiz says.

— Alex McCarthy

5:16 p.m.

Though Gov. Mike Dunleavy has repeatedly said that he doesn’t consider the Permanent Fund Dividend to be part of the budget, Ortiz (and many others) clearly sees it differently. He’s presenting Dunleavy’s budget as making cuts in order to pay out the $3,000 PFD.

— Alex McCarthy

5:10 p.m.

Rep. Dan Ortiz, I-Ketchikan, is starting this meeting off with a brief overview of the state’s fiscal history and how this current situation has come together. I imagine some on hand are a little impatient during this part. Dozens of people have shown up, and if they all take two minutes each, this will go on for a long time.

— Alex McCarthy

5:05 p.m.

As expected, there’s a large showing here for this meeting. The House Finance Committee room is full, as is a small room for overflow attendees. You can see a photo of the House Finance room above.

— Alex McCarthy

4:42 p.m.

Rep. Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, is imploring people via Twitter to come out and share their thoughts.

4:40 p.m.

We’re back here at the Capitol for tonight’s community budget meeting put on by the House Finance Committee. Starting at 5 p.m., members of the committee will listen to members of the public share their thoughts on the governor’s proposed budget. We’ll see what kind of variety they get, but with the budget’s impacts spreading across almost all state departments, we could see a wide range of people show up tonight.

The meeting is scheduled to go from 5-8 p.m.

“Cuts and efficiencies are possible and necessary, but these proposed reductions would have significant impacts on elders and youth, rural and urban residents, and every facet of our economy,” House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, said in a release about the meetings. “Because of this stark reality, all budget decisions must be informed by input from people across our state.”

— Alex McCarthy

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