Four southcentral legislators form 'freedom caucus'

Reps. Reinbold, Hughes, Tilton and Keller to promote conservative causes

ANCHORAGE — Four Republican state representatives from southcentral Alaska will promote conservative topics through a newly formed “freedom caucus.”

The four include Lora Reinbold of Eagle River, Shelley Hughes of Palmer, and Cathy Tilton and Wes Keller of Wasilla, the Alaska Dispatch News reported.

The caucus will let members compare notes and promote conservative concepts outside constraints of a more “political setting,” Keller said.

“It helps to be able to test your talking points on people that aren’t going to throw you out,” he said. “You need a sounding board sometimes — that’s the bottom line.”

States’ rights and Medicaid will come up as topics but the focus likely will be the Alaska budget, Hughes said.

State budget forecasters project a $3.5 billion deficit this year as oil prices decline. Republican leaders last week sent Gov. Bill Walker a letter urging immediate cuts.

Keller said one of the new group priorities is “to have a budget that is not in deficit.”

Reinbold said invitations to join have been extended to other representatives. The group’s loose rules call for member to become issue experts.

The group does not intend to compete with the Republican majority organization Reinbold said, but will examine issues through “conservative eyes,” she said. Walker, for example, wants to expand the Medicaid insurance program to 40,000 low-income Alaskans.

“We have to ask, is that sustainable, and can we really afford to put more on, knowing that the federal debt is $18 trillion, $19 trillion dollars?” Reinbold asked.

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