'Fix it': Alaskans testify in front of lawmakers in Wasilla
The House Finance Committee held its second public testimony hearing in Wasilla on Tuesday. The main topics up for discussion were the Permanent Fund dividend and House Bill 2001.
Before public testimony started at the Mat-Su Legislative Information Office, a handful of people held signs in support of a full PFD. Inside, more supporters shared their stories with lawmakers.
"I just can’t believe that you can’t leave your hands off the Permanent Fund," Denise Dotson said. "That was given to the people for our mineral rights. It wasn’t given to you guys; it was given to us. I’ve got 12 acres with no mineral rights. I’ve been here since 1980 and you want to give me $900."
Joe Schlanger aIso voiced his opinion and pushed for a full PFD.
"I make below the poverty level," Schlanger said. "So, I have to go somewhere else to live because you guys sit here and bicker and fight because you won’t give the PFD. The $3,000 I could use it. I have a family member, a significant other who is disabled."
While the first hour of testimony gave a slight edge to those who favor a full PFD, the tide turned as the meeting went on. Those who support HB 2001, which would replenish Gov. Mike Dunleavy's cuts by reducing the PFD amount to just over $900, made their presence felt.
Mark Lackey, the executive director of CCS Early Learning, told to lawmakers about the importance of early childhood development and the hard phone calls he recently had to make.
"I called these people to let them know there wasn’t a resolution yet, but if there was and no funding was available, that school would not open," Lackey said. "Their center would not open. Very difficult phone calls."
Lackey also urged lawmakers to find a solution.
"My plea to Gov. Dunleavy, to the House Finance Committee, to all legislators is to resolve this issue," Lackey said. "Fix it. Talk to one another. Please talk to one another please govern and please lead."
Legislators are expected to reconvene in Juneau on Thursday.
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