EDITOR, Daily News:

Each session, the Legislature’s biggest responsibility is to pass a budget for the State of Alaska. The House Budget Subcommittees — which examine the details of each department budget — have finished their budget recommendations. I serve as chair of three budget subcommittees, and we submitted the following budget actions to the House Finance Committee for further review.

The subcommittee for the Department of Environmental Conservation restored the Ocean Ranger program and protected funding for commercial shellfish PSP testing. The subcommittee for the Department of Fish and Game held fast against cuts to the Division of Commercial Fisheries, the bulk of the governor’s proposed decrements to this department. The subcommittee for the Department of Education and Early Development protected the Online with Libraries video conferencing program. I also hope we can delve into the loss of Pre-K funding in the House Finance Committee.

Noteworthy actions from other subcommittees include: the Department of Administration allocated $1 million for public broadcasting grants. Last year, all funds for public broadcasting, totaling $2.7 million, were vetoed by the Governor. The University of Alaska subcommittee added $10.5 million for base operations, such as employee compensation increases. The Department of Transportation subcommittee added $18.7 million to AMHS to get our ferries up and running again.

I’m confident in the near term, the House will be able to pass an increase to both the AMHS operation funding and vessel repair funding. If the Senate agrees with those increases and the governor doesn’t use his veto power for AMHS funding, we should be able to restore the schedule to the level it was prior to FY20 budget cuts, meaning significantly more service to all areas of the service.

This week, the House Finance Committee will review the budget and hear public testimony. The Ketchikan LIO has a set public testimony time of 6:45 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, February 20. Communities without an LIO are scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 22, from noon until 3 p.m. You can also email public testimony to housefinance@akleg.gov by Saturday at 5 p.m. More details can be found at www.akleg.gov. And as always, you can email me at Rep.Dan.Ortiz@AKLeg.gov.


House District 36