JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) — "Absolutely not," said Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, to the question of whether the governor's proposed FY2020 budget would pass through the Legislature as written.
"The difference between the governor and leadership in the Legislature is that the Legislature is going to seriously govern the State of Alaska and meet the constitutional needs of its citizens," Begich said. "The governor seems to not care about that, but the Legislature will."
Republicans in both chambers signaled they will be examining the budget closely and listening to input from constituents along the way.
“I think my Republican colleagues in my caucus will support a budget that is fiscally sustainable, is measured in its approach and provides for a stronger Alaska, a safer Alaska and provides for a more secure future for Alaskans,” said Rep. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage. “That doesn’t mean they’re going to rubber stamp it, but it means they will overall support any budget that pushes us in that direction — the budget will be given very careful review.”
Kopp said that he would look closely at healthcare and education, two big ticket items that marked for steep reductions in the budget.
On the capitol steps, dozens of protesters gathered to oppose the $155 million proposed cut to the University of Alaska system and call for a defense of education spending.
Reps. Andi Story, D-Juneau, Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, and Sara Hannan, D-Juneau were in the crowd, along with Anchorage Republican Senator Chris Birch.
Sen. Chris Birch, R-Anchorage, and Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, attend a protest opposing budget cuts to education in front of the capitol in Juneau, Feb. 13, 2019 (KTUU)
In the Senate, Republicans signaled that their priorities are protecting the Permanent Fund Dividend and working to increase jobs and grow the economy.
“The budget is only part of the picture – the Senate Finance Committee will be tracking and analyzing how the budget and other proposed appropriations and constitutional changes interact to affect the health of our state’s economy,” wrote Senate Finance Committee co-chair Sen. von Imhof, R-Anchorage, in a written statement. “While it is too early to understand all the impacts today, we’re committed to taking the time to fully analyze and thoroughly vet these proposals.”