Juneau residents speak out on operating budget proposal

Juneau residents who testified on the latest version of the state operating budget Monday urged lawmakers to reverse proposed cuts to early childhood education, the state ferry system and public broadcasting.

Steve SueWing, an early childhood education advocate, told the Senate Finance Committee he’d be willing to pay new taxes to support programs such as Best Beginnings and Parents as Teachers.

“I would support a statewide income tax, with specific monies dedicated towards predictable funding for education,” he said. “I would also support an endowment from the Permanent Fund, or a mechanism within the fund to use realized earnings to fund education, with the understanding that these changes may lead to diminished or non-existent dividends.”

Odin Brudie talked about the importance of the Alaska Marine Highway System to the culture and economy of Southeast, saying it’s used by high school sports teams as well as business owners, like contractors and builders.

“The marine highway is essential for us here in Southeast for moving people and goods to and around the region,” Brudie said.

KTOO board members Jorden Nigro and Will Muldoon testified against cuts to public broadcasting, which would lose all state funding under the current working version of the operating budget.

Other Juneau residents urged lawmakers to restore $1.5 million in funding for domestic violence and sexual assault prevention initiatives statewide.

The state is facing a multibillion dollar shortfall due to declining oil prices, forcing deep cuts to state-funded programs and services.

The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to take more testimony on the budget today.

Watch more testimony from Monday:

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