Legislator asks for a slap (if necessary)

Rep. Dan Ortiz, I-Ketchikan, really wants to hear Alaskans’ opinions on the budget. He’s even willing to take some punishment in the process.

“Slap us in the face if you have to, but let us know what’s on your mind,” he told attendees of Tuesday’s Native Issues Forum hosted by the Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska.

The forum is a series of lunch lectures that invites Alaska legislators and policymakers to speak to the Central Council and answer questions several times each legislative session. This year’s series includes five events; Tuesday’s was the first of the year.

Joining Ortiz was Rep. Sam Kito III, D-Juneau, and Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, and each man joined Ortiz’s plea for public involvement in the state’s budgeting process, albeit without a request for physical contact.

“Provide us with your feelings of the big picture of how we can cast our votes,” Egan said. “Sam, Dan and I are wanting to hear from you.”

Egan referred at length to the results of a poll commissioned by the Rasmuson Foundation. The results of that poll were released last week and found that while most Alaskans are aware of the state’s fiscal trouble, 41 percent of nonwhite Alaskans hadn’t heard of the governor’s plan to balance the budget by raising taxes, cutting expenses and using earnings from the Alaska Permanent Fund.

“It really is important for you to get the word out,” Egan said, speaking mostly to the Native members of the audience. “The problem and the solutions are going to impact everyone, and you have to know about it so you can tell us what you think we should do.”

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