Ortiz says school funding, child care and the state ferries are his priorities

The legislative session has begun, and I am back in Juneau working for you. As we dive into hearing proposed bills and dig into budget details, I want to share my priorities and remind you to reach out to me anytime.

One of my biggest priorities this session is to reevaluate the base student allocation and the state funding we allocate to our public school system. K-12 education has been flat funded for most of the past eight years, which, when we take into account inflation, actually has resulted in a significant cut in funding.

I know the four school districts that I represent are all looking at having to make very impactful cuts to programs and staff if they do not receive a significant increase to the BSA.

I am also hearing frequently about the need for more and affordable child care, and that this is a major factor hindering our available workforce. I hope to engage in valuable conversations about funding for both pre-K and K-12, as well as looking for ways that the state can be of assistance on the child care issue.

Another one of my priorities is protecting the Alaska Marine Highway System. We’ve been given a wonderful opportunity to “right the ship(s)” due to the work of Sen. Lisa Murkowski. We have been awarded $285 million in federal funding for our ferry system, but we need to make sure the state meets the match funding requirements so that we can take full advantage of these resources.

It is my hope this funding will help with building at least two new vessels, fleet rehabilitation and upkeep of our existing fleet, eventually resulting in a significant increase in service throughout the whole system. I’m very aware of the Prince Rupert route’s ongoing difficulties, and I will keep working to give southern Southeast access to the continental road system that exists just six hours away by boat from Ketchikan.

Some other issues that are on my radar: Making sure the state has the resources to fight the Wild Fish Conservancy lawsuit that could be so damaging to our trollers; making sure people have access to SNAP benefits despite the huge lag in processing applications; and the lack of state Division of Motor Vehicles services.

Rep. Dan Ortiz




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