Dunleavy's budget talk in Anchorage met with criticism from Mayor Berkowitz
Gov. Mike Dunleavy and his budget team were in Anchorage on Tuesday to present his budget proposal, drawing praise from some and criticism from others, including the city’s mayor.
It was the governor’s second stop, at the 49th State Brewing Co. in downtown Anchorage, was one of five scheduled throughout the state this month.
Beforehand, protesters gathered outside with signs and chants of "Save our state!" to show their disapproval of the governor’s proposed budget. Among those voicing opposition to the Dunleay's proposal was Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, who called the proposed budget divisive.
“We are bigger and better than what that budget thinks we are,” Berkowitz said, addressing protesters from a lectern.
Berkowitz particularly criticized Dunleavy’s proposed cuts to the Alaska Marine Highway System, Medicaid and education.
“Before there was a state, we had a ferry system. Before there was a state, we had a Pioneer Home. And all during the course of the state, we have educated our children,” Berkowitz said.
Inside the venue, a packed room listened as Dunleavy discussed details of his budget and the reasoning behind proposed cuts. The room of nearly 200 people applauded the governor after he explained his plan and again after he claimed he wanted the people of Alaska to have a voice.
"We're taxing ourselves heavily at the federal level and now we want to continue to spend at our level by taxing and/or taking the PFD," he said. "If that's the case, I'd rather have you folks agree to that and tell us that's what you want us to do as opposed to a handful of legislators or a governor in Juneau."
The event didn't offer an opportunity for public testimony, but those in attendance were able to pose questions to the panel through notecards submitted in advance. Dunleavy and his staff addressed his proposed cuts to the ferry system, Medicaid and education, saying the state can’t keep spending money it doesn’t have.
"We can't keep throwing money at our problems," he said. "We can't keep spending money into oblivion and think that's good for Alaska."
The governor also said his proposal is not to eliminate the programs but to operate and run them more efficiently.
A few interruptions to the event arose when protesters pounded on the door from outside and a couple made it inside to hoist a banner against Dunleavy.
The governor will take his budget discussion to Nome on Wednesday, followed by a trip to Fairbanks on Thursday and an event in the Mat-Su on Friday.
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