The Solution is in the Non-Partisan Middle
By Rep. Dan Ortiz
June 02, 2017
As of June 1st, the Alaska State Legislature is in the middle of the “special session” called by Governor Bill Walker. The Governor called us into special session because we reached the end of the 121st day of regular legislative session without fulfilling our one required legislative duty – to pass a state operating and capital budget out of both the House and the Senate for the Governor’s signature. The two bodies are currently at odds and at nearly a standstill over the issue of establishing a fiscal plan. So far, there has been no compromise to find the middle ground.
The state has been running a budget deficit for at least six years. We paid for those continued deficits by using our savings reserves; burning through $12 billion has nearly drained our savings. In the three years that I have been in office, we focused on cutting the budget. We adopted budgets that resulted in a 44% reduction in overall state spending, including a $1.1 billion reduction in the operating budget. In District 36, we feel the impact of those reductions through significantly reduced AMHS ferry service, less support for our senior citizens, and lost opportunities to commercial fish due to budget reductions in Fish & Game.
Our job in the legislature is to lead and take action for the best collective interests of our 735,000+ Alaskan residents. Our state is ethnically, culturally, economically, and politically diverse. My job as the District 36 Representative is to act and vote in the best collective interests of District 36 residents. The needs and interests of the folks living in small rural communities like Hyder and Hydaburg are in many ways different than those living within the city confines of Ketchikan, but I represent those communities, as well as Metlakata, Wrangell, and those living outside of city limits.
Alaska’s fiscal situation is not a partisan political issue. Many of the major issues Alaskans face cannot simply be divided into “Liberal” or “Conservative” issues, and only seeing the issues from those polarizing perspectives won’t help us arrive at a viable solution. The answers to these issues lie in the middle ground. They lie in the Legislature’s ability to compromise. The art of government is the art of compromise.
During my three years as the independent representative from District 36, I have strived daily to be a voice of compromise and middle ground. While I voted for a measure that, if adopted by the Senate, would institute an income tax, I am in no way “tied” to that measure as a must have in resolving Alaska’s fiscal situation. I am open to multiple options, as long as the end goal remains the same: adopt a fiscally sustainable plan for our state’s budget – a budget that is lean while still protecting the interests of our Senior Citizens and adequately funding our constitutionally-mandated government services. That’s the middle ground, a ground that is a safe and secure place for our 730,000 residents and 19,000 district residents to be.
Rep. Dan Ortiz
Received June 02, 2017 - Published June 02, 2017
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