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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

Let's Cut Legislators Lavish Accommodations

By Rep. Dan Ortiz


January 22, 2016
Friday AM

Legislators should be held to a high standard. They should lead by example in this fiscal crisis by cutting their own per diem and getting their work done in a timely manner. Legislators will primarily need to address our fiscal situation this session. The per-barrel price for Alaskan crude is below $30, so we now have a projected budget deficit above 3.5 billion dollars. Despite the fact that I voted to cut the budget by $900 million during the last legislative session, cuts will continue to be part of the solution to our budget crisis. I've co-sponsored two pieces of budget-cutting legislation. One will cut government spending on legislative per diem. The other will hold legislators accountable to a ninety day session. This is common sense for any fiscal conservative.

The first piece of legislation I pre-filed will stop irresponsible legislative spending on expensive meals and hotels. This legislation will also block legislators from pocketing per diem while they are at home. Their meal reimbursements during session will be capped at eight dollars for breakfast, eight dollars for lunch, and twelve dollars for dinner. This is in sharp contrast to the forty dollars per dinner entitlement which was enjoyed by some legislators who attended a Seattle conference last August. The second piece of legislation I pre-filed will require legislators to get their work done within the ninety day session. I respect the will of the voters, and in 2006 they asked our Legislature to get the job done in ninety days, so we need to get the job done in ninety days. We can’t afford to waste thousands of dollars because we were a week late getting our jobs done. If this passes and the voters approve a constitutional change setting the legislative session at ninety days, the Governor or the Legislature could still call a special session if it were deemed that further deliberations were needed for the good of Alaska.

The responsible thing to do during a fiscal crisis is to spend money wisely. Let's cut lavish accommodations, meals and extended regular sessions. Being fiscally responsible during this time of revenue decline should be a bipartisan effort. I am confident the passage of these bills will help get Alaska on a sustainable path.

Dan Ortiz
Ketchikan, Alaska

About: Dan Ortiz is an independent member of the Alaska House of Representatives, who has since 2015 represented the 36th District. He is the only independent in the Alaska State Legislature.

Received January 21, 2016 - Published January 22, 2015


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