Amid protests, governor gives budget presentation in Anchorage

Published: Mar. 26, 2019 at 10:42 PM AKDT
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As hundreds protested outside, the governor of Alaska and members of his administration spoke inside 49th State Brewing making their pitch to reduce a $1.6 billion budget deficit.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy began by giving the packed crowd of people at the Americans for Prosperity event a history lesson — Alaska had become rich with booming oil prices and then spent billions until it is now facing a budget deficit.

Department of Revenue Commissioner Bruce Tangeman said the options for Alaskans were stark: Spend down the Earnings Reserve Account, make big cuts to state spending or raise taxes.

For Dunleavy, the preference is to see high Permanent Fund Dividends, low state spending and avoiding new taxes.

Connected to those fiscal priorities are three constitutional amendments: One that would protect the PFD, another that would give voters a say on taxes, and a third that would limit state spending.

Attorney General Kevin Clarkson discussed all three and why the administration believes they are needed to keep Alaska’s fiscal house in order.

As the presentation came to a close, Dunleavy said with a smile that, “Contrary to what you may hear,” he is not afraid of engaging with the people during the budget process.

Before the question and answer session could begin, protesters from outside the room burst in and unfurled a banner that read “Recall Dunleavy.” The governor was unperturbed as the small group of protesters were quickly led away by security.

The crowd asked a range of questions, some in support of Dunleavy’s budget, while others questioned deep cuts being proposed to be made from education, healthcare and the Alaska Marine Highway System.

After the Anchorage event, the governor will head to Nome on Wednesday, before traveling to speak in Fairbanks on Thursday and Wasilla on Friday.