Juneauites turn out to protest budget cuts on first day of special session

Liz Lucas, laughs with a friend during a rally against Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s vetoes from the state’s budget on Monday, July 8, in Juneau. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

More than 750 protesters packed the street in front of the Alaska Capitol building on Monday, calling for the state Legislature to override Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget vetoes.

Brian Holst, executive director of the Juneau Economic Development Council, told the crowd the $440 million in cuts to state spending will increase local taxes and turn away millions of dollars in federal support.

“The damage by these cuts is not offset by increased (permanent fund) dividends,” Holst told the crowd. “We join the call on the Legislature to override.”

Protesters responded to Holst with chants of “Override!”

Holst is also president of the Juneau School District Board of Education. He said the unprecedented cuts to the University of Alaska and early education will destroy the talent pipeline Alaska relies on to strengthen its economy.

That point was echoed by Israa Kako, who joined the protest along with her preschool-aged daughter, Allie. Kako said she recently accepted a job out of state. Now she has to decide whether to move or try to work from home so she doesn’t have to uproot her family.

“If the cuts to education occur, Allie will not to college here. She will not go to school here because there needs to be funding for good teachers,” Kako said.

As the protest wrapped up, about two-thirds of the Legislature was inside the capitol for the first day of the second special session. The remainder met in Wasilla, but they did not have a quorum to do business.

The Legislature has until Friday to override the governor’s vetoes.

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