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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

RE: House Majority Coalition's Bogus School Tax is Disappointing

By Rep. Dan Ortiz


May 03, 2017
Wednesday PM

Mr. Bockhorst is correct. If the legislature implements the Education Funding Act, we can’t dedicate monies collected to any government spending, as the Legislature can’t adopt dedicated taxes. Our intent is to put the monies into the Public Education Fund to forward-fund education. The bill language says we “may” do this, because we cannot make a law saying we “will” do this. I have spoken with Dan Bockhorst about the inherent inequity in how property taxpayers in organized boroughs bear a greater burden to pay for education compared to those in unorganized areas. I have explored, and will continue to explore, legislative actions to mitigate this inequity.

My vote in favor of the Education Funding Act (an income tax) was not for political gain. Heck, I don’t want to pay taxes. I voted in favor because Alaska must adopt a complete fiscal plan. We must stop spending our dwindling savings. We have cut the budget by 44 percent since I entered public office. Department spending has been cut by an average of 25 percent. Yet, we continue to have a 2.7 billion dollar deficit. In supporting this Act, I did the right thing for Alaska’s future.

We cannot cut our way to a fiscal solution. The Senate has proposed a 750 million dollar cut to the operating budget over the next three years as a partial solution to the deficit. The Senate is calling for a 5.7 percent cut in public education funding this year. If this cut is successful, Ketchikan will see a reduction of 1.3 million dollars in state support for education. Metlakatla will see a reduction of 241,000 dollars, and Hydaburg will see a reduction of 85,400 dollars.

The Senate has proposed cutting Health and Social Services by 39 million dollars. Health and Social Services would need to close two Pioneer Homes to meet this cut, and also close 26 more Pioneer Home beds. The Senate budget also makes significant cuts to Medicaid, Senior and Disability services, Children’s Services, foster care, and behavioral health. The Senate’s budget also cuts public health nursing by 5 percent.

The Senate proposed budget cuts 48.8 million to road and airport maintenance, and a 4.8 million dollar cut to the Marine Highway System. At a proposed 328 marine highway operating weeks, the Senate has proposed 26 fewer operating weeks than in 2015.

Funding for the University of Alaska is reduced in the Senate’s budget by 22 million dollars. That cut is larger than the combined cost of operating the Ketchikan, Sitka, Mat-Su, Kodiak, Bethel, Nome, Kotzebue and Bristol Bay campuses.

We need an adequate level of funding for basic transportation infrastructure like the AMHS, and basic care for senior citizens. The State of Alaska also must provide the services mandated in our Alaska Constitution. I’ve been working hard to identify smart cuts in state spending, but I know cuts alone won’t manage the fiscal decline. That is why I voted in favor of an income tax.

Representative Dan Ortiz
Ketchikan, Alaska

Received May 03, 2017 - Published May 03, 2017

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letter House Majority Coalition's Bogus School Tax is Disappointing



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