Kenai Peninsula residents have a chance to weigh in on the state’s budget without having to budget for a trip to Juneau.
Rep. Gary Knopp, of Kenai, will hold a legislative town hall meeting Saturday in Soldotna. Knopp will be joined by House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, of Dillingham, Rep. Louise Stutes, of Kodiak, and Rep. Neal Foster, of Nome.
“We’re midsession. We’re going to give you an update of where we’re at on the budget,” Knopp said. “We’re just starting to close out the budget Finance subcommittees and we’re going to debate the budget in full Finance and we’re looking for community input on that.”
There are some big decisions to be made in the Legislature. Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed budget for next year carries a $1.55 billion deficit. There are no current proposals to cut the budget or raise revenues to cover that deficit.
The governor also submitted over $200 million in a supplemental budget request to the Legislature for additional money in the current fiscal year to cover costs of Medicaid, wildfire-fighting expenses and some other things.
Pat Pitney, director of the Legislative Finance Division, addressed the House Finance Committee Friday afternoon, and said the governor’s supplemental budget request and his proposal to further increase the amount of the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend means the current year’s budget will actually be higher than last year’s, even after all the budget cuts the governor made by veto.
“When you look a the fiscal year 2020 budget relative to the fiscal year 2019 budget, with the supplementals that have been proposed, it’s $809 million higher than the budget that was finalized last year, even after all of the cuts like to the marine highway system and the university and health and social services. Essentially, those were offset by the supplemental request,” Pitney said.
The House Finance town hall meeting will be held from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Assembly Chambers at the Kenai Peninsula Borough Building.