'Save our state': Hundreds come out in opposition to budget vetoes

Published: Jul. 2, 2019 at 10:30 PM AKDT
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On Tuesday evening, hundreds of Alaskans came out loudly in opposition to the governor’s budget vetoes at the Anchorage Legislative Information Office.

Outside the building, a large protest was held with chants of “Save our State.” Inside the LIO, dozens of people testified against the roughly $444 million in line-item vetoes by the governor.

Many spoke about the impact to the University of Alaska. Others spoke about the impact to low-income seniors and cuts to healthcare.

“I came down to point out the misguided direction the governor is taking us in,” said Kevin McGee, President of the Anchorage branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “I truly believe we have a moral obligation to look out for the poor, seniors, and those who have the least among us.”

Only a handful of people spoke in favor of the vetoes or in reference to excessive state spending. One testifier referenced the potential financial loss to Alaskans by shrinking the Permanent Fund dividend, another said the budget had to be cut dramatically.

95-year-old Vic Fischer, the last surviving member of the Alaska Constitutional Convention, stood outside with protesters opposing the cuts.

“I came down today because I’m totally disgusted,” he said of the governor’s line-item vetoes. “He’s cutting the feet from under Alaska, he’s cutting the feet from under the young people of Alaska and I think he’s out to ruin the state.”

A large group of lawmakers came to listen to testifiers. The group was mostly Democrats from Anchorage but there were three members of the House minority caucus in attendance, a caucus that could prove decisive in whether the vetoes are overturned.

Republican Reps. Sara Rasmussen, Laddie Shaw and Kelly Merrick listened patiently to people testify.

House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, said his 15-member caucus was not interested in overriding any of the governor’s vetoes but spending could potentially be added to the capital budget or in a supplemental budget.

“It’s a way for us all to be seen to be working together and coming together, instead of intentionally trying to create divides,” he said.

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