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Finance panel to hold hearing: In Ketchikan on Saturday

Daily News Staff Writer

Members from the Alaska House Finance Committee will hold a public hearing about the state budget of Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Saturday in Ketchikan.

Dunleavy proposed a budget on Feb. 13, outlining $1.6 billion in budget cuts and revenue transfers. These cuts include a 25 percent reduction in state funding to K-12 schools, a 41 percent reduction in university funding, a 30 percent reduction in Health and Social Services, and a 38 percent cut to the Department of Transportation.

This translates into about a $98 million cut for the Alaska Marine Highway System, according to DOT. The House Transportation Committee had a record number of 617 people partiipate in public hearings last week, nearly all of whom opposed the cuts.

Under the proposed budget, Ketchikan's school district would see around $6 million to $7 million less in funding, and the City of Ketchikan and Ketchikan Gateway Borough $800,000 less in fishing landing tax.

In a Tuesday press release from the House Finance Committee, Alaska House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, said, "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, ... Because of this stark reality, all budget decisions must be informed by input from people across our state."

House Finance Committee members are fanning out to facilitate a string of public hearings in eight communities around the state starting Friday and ending Sunday.

Rep. Dan Ortiz, I-Ketchikan, and Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka will be the two people from the committee at the Ketchikan event on Saturday.

The public event is from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Ted Ferry Civic Center.

In addition, the hearing will be audio streamed online at www.akleg.gov, according to the Ketchikan Legislative Information Office. Look for and click on “Live Now” tab, then click on “House Finance.”

In addition to Ketchikan, House Finance Committee hearings are scheduled in Juneau, Mat-Su/Wasilla, Bethel, Kenai, Anchorage, Sitka, and Fairbanks.

The press release goes on to say that these hearings are the first of their kind in Alaska's history.

After the House Finance Committee's announcement of its hearings, the Dunleavy administration released a notice about a "roadshow" where Dunleavy will speak at events around the state.

According to ticketing, the events are being paid for by Americans for Prosperity, a libertarian-conservative political advocacy group.

These events have strict rules prohibiting attendees from recording, photography or reproducing any of the details elsewhere.

People were encouraged by a press release from the governor's office to register before going. Other news sources are reporting that registration is mandatory, and ID will be checked at the door.

The governor’s stops will include Nome, Kenai, Anchorage, Fairbanks and Wasilla. No Southeast Alaska communities are included.

Matt Shuckerow, press secretary for Dunleavy, wrote in a statement that these events "all focus on the tough discussions ahead, our state's undeniable fiscal challenges, and exactly how the governor intends to let Alaskans determine their own future."