Reps. Sara Hannan, left, Dan Ortiz and Andi Story listen to Emily Ferry and her son Caleb Schane as they share their thoughts on the governor’s proposed budget to the House Finance Committee at the Alaska State Capitol on Friday, March 22, 2019. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Reps. Sara Hannan, left, Dan Ortiz and Andi Story listen to Emily Ferry and her son Caleb Schane as they share their thoughts on the governor’s proposed budget to the House Finance Committee at the Alaska State Capitol on Friday, March 22, 2019. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Some Juneau residents willing to pay income tax, give up PFD to help state

Many understand there won’t be an easy solution

As dozens of Juneau and Douglas residents spoke to the House Finance Committee on Friday night, there was fear in many of their voices — but there was hope in others.

The meeting was the first in a series of community meetings the committee is holding around the state to gather Alaskans’ thoughts on Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed budget. While many of the 68 people who testified said they were scared or used words like “immoral” and “sickening” to describe the budget, many of them said they were heartened by the number of people who showed out to share their thoughts.

A few main themes stood out during the comments. Principally, many who spoke said they would either take a smaller Permanent Fund Dividend or would pay a state income tax to help the state raise revenues so it wouldn’t have to slash spending as much as the governor has proposed.

[Capitol Live: Members of public say they’d take smaller PFD]

Douglas resident Laura Steele summed up many of the comments as she spoke about the impact that a $3,000 PFD could have on the state.

“Don’t get me wrong, I would love the idea of having an extra $3,000,” Steele said. “I’d love it. It would be great for me. But I love my neighbors, their children, our elders and our state so much more than I love that idea.”

While many people said they’d gladly give up getting a PFD, some of them acknowledged that there are many people throughout the state who depend on the annual payments to support their families. Rep. Sara Hannan, D-Juneau, said in an interview after the meeting that she was impressed with the way people showed up and expressed a willingness to help out.

“I think Alaskans are ready to contribute to the revenue stream and are asking for an income tax,” Hannan said. “Of course, there are people who mentioned and talked about the significant impact of cutting the PFD harms the people who have less financial stability and means, so I think we’ve got to see a combination of an income tax and a reduction in the PFD.”

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)

Hannan, who has stated many times that she’s in favor of an income tax, said the series of meetings — where committee members listen to people from around the state sharing their thoughts on the state’s budget — are important for legislators and constituents alike to learn more about how the budget affects Alaskans.

Rep. Dan Ortiz, I-Ketchikan, chairs the committee and presented beforehand about Alaska’s fiscal history and the current situation the state is in. He spoke primarily about how paying out a $3,000 PFD without raising revenues would affect the state budget. Many of the people who testified asserted that they don’t think this is an either/or situation. If the state finds another revenue stream, they said, there could be a way where people get a hefty PFD without the state having to make drastic cuts to services such as the Alaska Marine Highway System or the University of Alaska.

[Legislature working to avoid ‘devastating’ cuts, Juneau lawmakers say]

People who testified came from all corners of the community. Elected officials on the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly and the Juneau Board of Education talked about how the state might save money but municipalities would have to pay more under Dunleavy’s budget. Bartlett Regional Hospital CEO Chuck Bill said the cost to providers would be “outrageous” if the state cut more than $400 million in Medicaid funding as proposed. Multiple students in the Juneau School District said they don’t want their teachers to have to have huge class sizes as a result of budget cuts. Juneau Police Chief Ed Mercer urged the committee to fund more prosecutors to help combat rising crime rates in the state.

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)

Many retirees, young professionals, business owners, parents and others agreed that they want to stay in Alaska and it would be harder to do so if so many state services were cut.

Jon Lyman — who moved to Alaska 50 years ago this year and has lived all over the state — said the aspect of Alaska he loves the most is the way everyone comes together and helps each other, and he urged the legislators to get together and figure out how to go forward.

“It is the people that come and help you. It is the people you rely upon time and again,” Lyman said. “What this proposal does, is it tears us apart by saying, ‘I’ve got to have my $3,000’ instead of, ‘I have to participate in this state.’”

Seven more House Finance Committee community meetings are scheduled, in Ketchikan, Mat-Su, Bethel, Kenai, Anchorage, Sitka and Fairbanks.


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


More in News

A Princess Cruise Line ship is docked in Juneau on Aug. 25, 2021. (Michael Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Ships in Port for the week of Sept. 25

Here’s what to expect this week.

Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire
Faith Rogers’ loved ones, from left to right, James Rogers (father), Michelle Rogers (sister), Harmony Wentz (daughter), Maria Rogers (mother) and Mindy Voigt (friend) sit with Faith’s three dogs in their family home. Faith Rogers, 55, of Juneau was found dead along a popular trail on Wednesday, Sept. 21. Police are investigating the death as a homicide.
‘It’s shocking’: Family hopes for answers after suspicious death of loved one

“She wanted to make things beautiful, to help make people beautiful…”

People work together to raise the Xa’Kooch story pole, which commemorates the Battle of the Inian Islands. (Shaelene Grace Moler / For the Capital City Weekly)
Resilient Peoples & Place: The Xa’Kooch story pole — one step toward a journey of healing

“This pole is for the Chookaneidi, but here among us, many clans are represented…”

A bracket fungus exudes guttation drops and a small fly appears to sip one of them.( Courtesy Photo / Bob Armstrong)
On the Trails: Water drops on plants

Guttation drops contain not only water but also sugars, proteins, and probably minerals.

A chart shows what critics claim is poor financial performance by the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, especially in subsidizing private industry projects intended to boost the state’s economy, during its 55-year existence. The chart is part of a report released Tuesday criticizing the agency. (MB Barker/LLC Erickson & Associates/EcoSystems LLC)
AIDEA’s fiscal performance fishy, critics say

Report presented by salmon industry advocates asserts state business subsidy agency cost public $10B

Police vehicles gather Wednesday evening near Kaxdigoowu Héen Dei, also known as ]]Brotherhood Bridge Trail, while investigating a homicide. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Police: Woman was walking dogs when she was killed

JPD said officers are working “around the clock” on the criminal investigation.

In this photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, a Coast Guard Cutter Kimball crew-member observes a foreign vessel in the Bering Sea, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022. The U.S. Coast Guard cutter on routine patrol in the Bering Sea came across the guided missile cruiser from the People's Republic of China, officials said Monday, Sept. 26.  (U.S. Coast Guard District 17 via AP)
Patrol spots Chinese, Russian naval ships off Alaska island

This wasn’t the first time Chinese naval ships have sailed near Alaska waters.

An Alaska judge has ruled that a state lawmaker affiliated with the Oath Keepers, Rep. David Eastman, shown in this February 2022 photo, may stay on the general election ballot in November even though he's likely ineligible to hold public office  (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Judge keeps Oath Keepers lawmaker on November ballot

Judge ordered delaying certifying the result of the race until a trial scheduled for December.

Water rushes down Front Street, just a half block from the Bering Sea, in Nome, Alaska, on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022 as the remnants of Typhoon Merbok moved into the region. It was a massive storm system — big enough to cover the mainland U.S. from the Pacific Ocean to Nebraska and from Canada to Texas. It influenced weather systems as far away as California, where a rare late-summer storm dropped rain on the northern part of the state, offering a measure of relief to wildfire crews but also complicating fire suppression efforts because of mud and loosened earth. (AP Photo / Peggy Fagerstrom)
Repair work begins in some Alaska towns slammed by storm

ANCHORAGE — There’s been significant damage to some roads and homes in… Continue reading

Most Read