Public participation at budget hearings down from 2019

Fisherman Tania Harrison testifies in favor of increased funding for the Alaska Marine Highway System and public education. (Feb. 21, 2020) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Feb. 21-22 hearings on the state budget drew testimony from six Cordova residents, down from about 30 participants last year. This drop in participation could possibly be attributed to the fact that the proposed budget does not show dramatic revisions from the current budget, said information officer Nancy Bird.

Residents used the Cordova Legislative Information Office’s teleconference facility to testify before the House Finance Committee. Testimony focused on increased funding for the Alaska Marine Highway System, public education and public broadcasting. Some residents who testified also advocated for a reduced Permanent Fund Dividend.

“The ferry is not only a vital link for our community to the rest of the state, it is what allows us to support Alaskan businesses on the road system,” said fisherman Marc Carrel. “Without the ferry, our businesses have to have all their supplies barged up from Seattle. A study found that every dollar spent on the marine highway is returned manyfold to the Alaskan economy, and we see that very directly in our community right now, where our economy is suffering because of the lack of the ferry service and all our business is having to go out of state.”

After the House Finance Committee amends the budget in light of public input, it will be sent to the house for approval. Once approved, it will be sent to the Senate Finance Committee. The Senate Finance Committee is expected to hold public hearings around mid-March, Bird said. Alaska’s Fiscal Year 2021 Budget will go into effect July 1.