Mayor Beth Weldon, left, and City Manager Rorie Watt testify on the operating budget in front of the Senate Finance Committee at the Capitol on Thursday, April 11, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Mayor Beth Weldon, left, and City Manager Rorie Watt testify on the operating budget in front of the Senate Finance Committee at the Capitol on Thursday, April 11, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Juneauites urge Senate to preserve education funding

After House approval, Senate set to begin budget process

As the Alaska House of Representatives approved its operating budget on Thursday, members of the Senate were listening to Alaskans from around the state share their thoughts on what they wanted the Senate to do with the budget.

For an hour and a half, the Senate Finance Committee listened specifically to Juneau residents. Testifiers included everyone from University of Alaska Southeast students to retirees to Mayor Beth Weldon. Education-related topics stood out, as attendees implored the senators to preserve funding for K-12 education, early education and the university system. Multiple people also testified about preserving Medicaid funding.

City and Borough of Juneau officials have been outspoken during the state’s budget process, particularly critical of proposed school-related cuts that would shift costs to the municipality. Last week, the House Finance Committee voted to eliminate a school bond debt reimbursement program, and the CBJ issued a statement saying that would cost the city $16 million over the next few years. On the House floor, representatives voted to restore some of the funding for the program, but Weldon urged the Senate to keep the funding for that program intact as much as possible.

“Education is an investment in our future, not a discretionary cost,” Weldon said.

The House’s budget, which includes about $200 million in cuts from last year’s budget, rejected many of the deep cuts in Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget proposal. The House’s budget goes to the Senate for approval next. If changes are made in the Senate, a joint House-Senate conference committee will convene to sort out the differences before the budget bill goes to Dunleavy. The governor then has 30 days to sign the bill or to make vetoes.

Juneau’s senator, Jesse Kiehl, is not on the Senate Finance Committee but was in attendance Thursday to listen to his constituents. Rep. Andi Story, D-Juneau, also made it for part of the hearing after the House finished its floor session. Kiehl said he appreciated the feedback that people gave during the meeting.

“I heard a remarkable number of people acknowledge that the budget’s going to get smaller and ask that the reductions are going to be something that we can sustain and don’t shun our kids and crash the economy,” Kiehl said in a brief interview afterward. “I’ve been working with my colleagues on a lot of ideas about that, and it’s good to hear folks reinforce that message.”


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


More in News

The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Aurora forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of Nov. 27

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Tuesday, Nov. 29

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Saturday, Nov. 26

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Sugar Bear Alaskan Treasures, seen here, was one of many artist vendors featured at the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska Indigenous Artists & Vendors Holiday Market from noon to 5 p.m. on Friday through Sunday at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
Indigenous Holiday Market features local artists

Market’s first return since 2018.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Thursday, Nov. 24

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

A member of the Juneau Gun Club helps participants with shooting clay targets, one of many events featured at the club’s annual Thanksgiving turkey shoot. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
Ready, aim, gobble: Juneau Gun Club hosts annual Turkey Shoot

No turkeys were harmed in the making of this article.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Wednesday, Nov. 23

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

A cellphone screen displays spam text messages. During busy shopping season, scammers pretending to be other people, businesses or agencies frequently attempt to gain personal information via “spoofed” text messages, emails or phone calls. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
‘Criminals do not take the holidays off’

FBI shares tips to avoid being scammed during busy shopping season.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Saturday, Nov. 19

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read