After hearing record-breaking amounts of public testimony on proposed cuts to the state budget, lawmakers from the Alaska House of Representatives will be traveling around the state this weekend to hold town hall meetings. Representatives Dan Ortiz (District 36) and Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (District 35) will be in Sitka on Sunday (3-24-19) to hear feedback from residents about state budget cuts proposed by Governor Mike Dunleavy.
Ortiz says the two will first give a short presentation, but it’s really an opportunity for them to listen.
“What I hope to get is a better understanding of the people who live in Ketchikan and the people who live in Sitka- what are our concerns in relationship to the budget that’s before us,” he says.
Kreiss Tomkins says that he and Ortiz have a sense of how residents in their communities feel, and it is important to give the public an opportunity to put their concerns on the record. Over the last month, public hearings on various aspects of the proposed budget have seen big turnout across the state.
“I think it’s worth noting that the public testimony on the ferry system broke all records in terms of public testimony on any one single subject as far as records have been capped in the Alaska legislature,” Kreiss-Tomkins says. That’s an eyebrow raising statistic.”
Kreiss-Tomkins says he senses the proposal put forth by Governor Dunleavy has left some constituents feeling overwhelmed.
“There’s just so much radical change being proposed in one fell swoop, it’s easy to have it boggle the mind.”
And Ortiz says that while the ferry system seems to rise to the top of the list for many of his constituents, it’s hard to keep track of all of the concerns.
“As a legislator, just to be able to keep track of it all and to know that there’s not only this issue, but then there’s this issue and then there’s this issue – it’s mind boggling for myself, I have to admit to that,” he says. “But with that said, I think a good place to start is always to go back to the people and to listen to our constituents.”
While the meeting itself will not be recorded, residents attending may submit comments in writing to the official record. Sitka’s House Finance town hall will be held Sunday, March 24 from 2-5 p.m. at Harrigan Centennial Hall.