Gov. Mike Dunleavy visited a North Pole church Friday afternoon to present his budget to a sparse group of about 100 attendees.
A group of five or six protesters gathered outside the Church at North Pole around 2 p.m. to speak out against Dunleavy's proposed major reductions as North Pole and Fairbanks residents filed into the church.
The governor was warmly welcomed by Pastor Aaron Richert before beginning the same budget slideshow presented at previous budget events.
The event was scheduled as part of his extended budget "roadshow." Last month he spoke to a group of about 200 audience members at a ticketed event at the Westmark that brought nearly 500 protesters.
This time, the event was not ticketed and was open to the public. He received support from some and pushback from others while some hadn't quite decided.
Reed Morisky, a local fishing guide, attended the presentation because he wanted to learn more about the governor's plan.
"I'm still evaluating where they're at and just looking forward to hearing more on where we're at and where we need to go as far as state spending," Morisky said. "I support most of the cuts, understanding that the Legislature will work through the initial proposal; just kind of waiting to hear."
Mike Prax, a North Pole resident and former member of the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly, supported Dunleavy's cuts and would like to see much of the current state spending shift to local communities and private enterprise.
"I think it's very necessary for the spending level to be reduced," Prax said. "I am very upset with the Legislature and previous governor for ignoring the law and cutting the dividend that is established in statute."
One area of state spending that Prax took issue with is education.
"If we want a school, it used to be the community funded the school and we wouldn't have to argue with Anchorage or Kaktovik in order to get our school," Prax said. "Education, schools, should be funded at the local level."
While the event was largely dominated by community members seeking more information on the governor's budget or speaking in support of his sweeping cuts, some audience members took issue with the magnitude of the proposed reductions in state spending.
Anne Doerpinghaus, one of the protesters outside the event, said she's worried about the direction this budget would take the state.
"I'm here because I believe that the wealth and resources of Alaska's people should be wisely invested in Alaska's population," Doerpinghaus said. "In schools, in continuing Medicaid services, in maintaining the ferries. The trade-off of a big PFD and continuing to give the tax advantages to the big oil companies stands to bankrupt the state."
Philip Martin, a Fairbanks resident, said he was alarmed by Dunleavy's budget proposal.
"For many reasons, but overall, I think it cuts deeply into services that are critical to Alaskans. That includes education, transportation, Pioneers' Homes," Martin said.
The central message of the governor's presentation revolved around the notion of high cost and a presumed low reward. Dunleavy said part of the reason he sees in justifying his bare-bones budget is that the state has been spending additional resources on areas that he believes have yielded poor results. He cited education as an example, noting that state spending has gone up while test results have remained below average.
After completing his presentation, the Dunleavy opened up the forum for questions, which yielded topics such as broad-based taxes, sex education policy in public schools, local taxes and oil revenue.
The governor will also be speaking in Anchorage on Monday at the Dena'ina Civic and Convention Center at 11:30 a.m. While the Fairbanks event was free, the Anchorage one is not.
That event, hosted by the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, is ticketed with the cheapest ticket option being $13. Online registration ahead of time is recommended as space is limited, but the $13 option is not available on the website.
According to Aubrie Herman with the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, for those interested in paying the $13, the only option is to show up early to get a ticket at the door. But she said it's a good idea to show up far ahead of time as tickets are likely to run out.
For more information about the Anchorage event and to register online, go to: https://www.anchoragechamber.org/.
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.