The House Finance Committee will hold budget-related hearings outside of Juneau, Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, announced Thursday.

Edgmon said the hearings will feature a presentation from the committee and a chance for those attending the hearing to comment on Dunleavy’s plan.

He said growing public engagement in Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget and his plan to nearly double last year’s Permanent Fund dividend is driving this initiative.

“We’re getting more people engaged in a way that we think needs to continue,” he said. “It’s our duty to build upon the momentum that’s out there in terms of the public being involved in the budget process down here that arguably they haven’t been as engaged in the past.”

They will begin March 23 and be held in Anchorage, Wasilla and Soldotna. The schedule for the meetings is still being finalized.

In a statement, Rep. Colleen Sullivan-Leonard, R-Wasilla, said lawmakers should not be spending money on travel and should follow Dunleavy’s example of reducing travel budgets by 50 percent.

“This is a great depiction of why the people of Alaska do not trust in their legislature — we’re in the middle of a huge budget deficit and House leadership wants to spend money that we do not have to try and advocate for spending even more money that we do not have,” she said.

While this is not a typical practice, it’s not unprecedented.

In 2008, a joint committee made up of lawmakers from the House and Senate held hearings in communities from Ketchikan to Utqiagvik. At the time, the committee held discussions on former Gov. Sarah Palin’s gas line legislation.

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