Fatigued after long budget battle, Anchorage residents wonder what's next

Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, answers constituents' questions in Anchorage on Saturday Nov. 2. (KTUU)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - After a rocky state budgeting cycle Anchorage residents are wondering what to expect for 2020.

Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, held a constituent meeting in Anchorage on Saturday. He outlined what he sees as core state investment priorities -- public safety, mental health and substance abuse, education -- then he gave the floor over to his constituents.

Residents asked about recent proposed regulatory changes that would allow the Alaska State Department of Law to represent the state’s governor against ethics complaints deemed to be in the public’s interest.

"Is it worth pressuring other representatives and senators at this point, or should we wait until budget time?" Anchorage resident Kim Jones asked, speaking against the proposed change.

Claman said residents should voice their concerns to their elected officials, and they have until Monday, Nov. 4, to do so.

Claman said allowing the state to legally represent an elected official on ethics complaints is an inherent conflict of interest. The AK DOL disagrees, saying in a statement, “The proposed regulation would enable the department to carry on one of its primary functions--that of acting as legal counsel for the governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General in their official capacities..."

Residents also referred to Gov. Mike Dunleavy's, R-Alaska, campaign promise to balance the budget and restore the full Permanent Fund Dividend. They said the cuts he’s made to state services have been drastic, and if he wants a full PFD it’s time to find new ways to generate revenue.

"Everybody says it's not the year to talk about a progressive income tax … so I'm wondering … is this the year?" Kim Jones asked.

The governor signed off on a $1,600 PFD in Aug., but said he would continue striving for a full statutory dividend. Otherwise, he has stuck to his guns on his general approach to the budget, which excludes additional taxation.

“The budget goals and priorities for my administration have been very clear,” Gov. Dunleavy said. “Maintain and protect our reserves; expenditures cannot exceed existing revenues; the budget is built on core functions; and no additional taxes on Alaskans."

Claman said there's not enough support in the State Legislature to move for a progressive income tax. His answer to Kim Jones’ question … 2020 is probably not the year.

"With this governor, if there's anything that's really apparent is that he's not going to support any kind of progressive income tax, at least in the coming year," Claman said.

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