We might want to weigh in on this one.
The state Legislature has heavy lifting to do this session as it prepares Alaska’s operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
Rep. Dan Ortiz of Ketchikan often elicits our opinions through calls, emails, letters to the editor and gatherings. Elected by House District 36, he seeks southern Southeast views of the issues facing the state and policies that should be enacted. Nothing sets strategy for Alaska like its budget.
The state House Finance Committee, on which Ortiz serves as vice chair, will present an opportunity for public comment on Thursday.
This is when we get the chance to comment on to what extent essential services should be funded. These services for this region include public safety, fisheries, schools and transportation, specifically the Alaska Marine Highway System.
Even if we’ve already talked with Ortiz, this opportunity presents all members of the House Finance Committee as our audience.
Alaska has been dealing with economic challenges in recent years, resulting in lower Alaska Permanent Fund payouts than called for constitutionally, and the advent of the novel coronavirus response only increased challenges for the state and its economy.
Throughout this period, the budget has been reduced, positions remain unfilled, state workers are doing more with less like the private sector, and new revenue is the focus. Both sales and income tax, as well as increasing taxes for the oil companies doing business in Alaska, have been suggested.
Aside from talking with Ortiz, Southeast Alaskans may address the House Finance Committee between 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Thursday. Each speaker is limited to two minutes. All Alaskans may participate from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Call-in numbers are available through the Legislative Information Office or Ortiz’ office.
Written testimony also is being accepted this week at House.Finance@akleg.gov.
The operating budget is a weighty subject on which Alaskans will give their input. That opinion will decide Alaska’s future — both immediate and for generations to come.