Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer speaks to a full house at the Native Issues Forum in the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Wednesday, March 6, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer speaks to a full house at the Native Issues Forum in the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Wednesday, March 6, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Lt. Gov. tells Alaska Natives, ‘Don’t be too upset by the budget’

Tribal president says he’s concerned they’re not in control of their own narrative

Some people aren’t content with the explanation for the governor’s budget that it’s a “conversation starter.”

Lieutenant Governor Kevin Meyer spoke Wednesday at the Native Issues Forum at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall to explain the governor’s reasoning for the budget.

“The 18 years I’ve been in the legislature, this is the first year we actually had a budget that truly shows this is how much revenue we have, and this is how much we can afford,” Meyer said. “Governor (Mike) Dunleavy is actually doing what he said during the campaign, and that caught a lot of people off guard.”

But when Meyer said, “I think the governor will accept whatever the general public wants to do. Don’t get too upset with the budget,” the audience laughed.

[Capitol Live: Lieutenant Governor talks budget at Native Issues forum]

Meyer said part of his job is promoting the governor’s agenda for Alaska. He said some of the proposed reductions have upset people, but he thinks it’s good that Dunleavy started out with this budget the way he did, because over the last four years the state has “burned through $14 billion of savings,” and that the budget is a conversation starter.

Notably Meyer was a part of the body that approved that dipping into reserves. He formerly served as a Republican in the legislature from 2003-2018 and from 2015-2017 was the Senate President. He said this year more than ever people are stopping him on the street to talk about the budget.

“My concern is we’re not in control of our own narrative in these discussions,” said Richard Peterson, the president of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. “You talk about our Christmas tree (editor’s note: earlier in the speech, Meyer referenced the Governor’s Good Neighbor Holiday Tree program), well it’s really hard for me to settle for Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree when we own the tree farm.”

The audience clapped at this statement.

“It’s concerning to me when we see a budget — and I appreciate that that’s a starting point and it’s a discussion point — but the discussion turns negative really quick when you zero out things like Head Start (a preschool program) and Tribal (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) … and then we see $440 billion being turned back to the federal government. How are we supposed to water this farm?”

John Moller, one of Dunleavy’s policy advisors, said he will do what he has to do to bridge the trust factor between the governor’s office and the Tlingit and Haida tribes to help the conversation.

[Power costs in rural Alaska could go up under governor’s proposed budget]

Later in the discussion, Meyer also drew laughs from the crowd when he said the North Slope investment will trickle down into the economy for the state.

At the beginning of his speech, Meyer also noted that the Senate passed a citation that honors five Tlingit code talkers who helped aide WWII efforts. It posthumously honored Tlingit code talkers Robert Jeff David, Sr., Richard Bean, Sr., George Lewis, Jr., and brothers Harvey Jacobs and Mark Jacobs, Jr.

“I’m just really glad we’re finally able to recognize these five individuals for the service they provided our country,” Meyer said.

He said he’s recently talked to Gov. Mike Dunleavy and they are going to fly the flags at half mast for the next five days to honor these men.

• Contact reporter Mollie Barnes at or 523-2228.

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