Members of the House Finance Committee heard public testimony Tuesday from members of the state and local business community on Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s list of 182 line-item vetoes to the operating budget, with many expressing concern about the effects on the University of Alaska and the state’s economy as a whole.

Two local Fairbanks officials outlined such worries. 

Marisa Sharrah, president and CEO of the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce noted the chamber’s advocacy of a fiscal plan for the state.

“The Fairbanks Chamber has advocated for a long-term fiscal plan for Alaska for six straight years,” she said. “We want government to be more efficient and reduce spending. We want policies that encourage resource development and business friendly practices that community Alaska is open for business. 

Sharrah also noted the chamber’s support for the university, emphasizing the interconnection between the university and a thriving Fairbanks economy. 

“We recognize the Fairbanks campus is an integral part of our community,” she said. “UAF is a vibrant university that is crucial not only for the training of our community’s workplace professionals but also for the research and development endeavors necessary to address our state’s crucial challenges.”

Steve Lundgren, president of Denali State Bank and member of the Alaska Bankers Association, highlighted concerns about the possible destabilization of Alaska’s economy should the Dunleavy’s cuts go through. 

Lundgren noted that members of the association travel to Juneau each year to talk with legislators about issues pertaining to the state’s economy, adding that talking points over the last few years have advocated for a stable budget climate and long-term fiscal plan. 

“And I emphasize long-term,” Lundgren said. “That includes withdrawals from the permanent fund, and that results in a soft landing for our economy.”

Lundgren warned of the dangers of cutting “too much too fast.”

“All seven banks in Alaska are aligned in our request that the Legislature override the governor’s vetoes,” Lundgren said. “At our nature we’re fiscal conservatives and we support right-sized government. We believe the Legislature has moved in this direction and we support the Legislature’s budget.”

UA President Jim Johnsen also testified before the committee, identifying the costs, academic and otherwise, of the cuts.

“Students will fall through the cracks, no question,” Johnsen told House members. “Because we will be in the position of closing entire campuses, certainly many, many, many programs and that will be very disruptive in the near term.”

Even though the Legislature is currently stuck in a deadlock with some members meeting in Wasilla and others meeting in Juneau — each claiming their location is the rightful place for the session — members in Juneau have scheduled a joint House and Senate floor session for this morning to discuss and possibly vote, if they have enough members to do so, on any desired overrides. 

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.

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