Alaska Officials Talk Budget In Secret

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(AP) State lawmakers from both parties met privately for more than two hours to hash out a $1 billion budget deficit, drawing criticism that the session wasn’t open to the public.

The House of Representatives failed to come up with a proposal to fix the deficit, but members agreed that it will take a bipartisan show of force from the body to increase taxes in an election year.

Wednesday’s closed-door meeting drew a protest from the Alaska chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. It asked lawmakers to reconsider closing the meeting.

Alaska law doesn’t require that such caucuses be open to the public.

Former state Rep. Kay Brown, an advocate for open meetings during her nine years as a Democrat in the House, said she e-mailed several current lawmakers urging them to open future meetings to the public.

“I recognize we have a very serious problem and a grave situation if it is not addressed,” she said. “We the people need to know what’s going on.”

House Speaker Brian Porter, a Republican from Anchorage, defended the usefulness of locking out the public.

“In my humble opinion, half of these people wouldn’t have said what they said if the cameras were there,” Porter said.

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