Alaska’s House District 1 Representative Dan Ortiz filed for re-election in June. The district includes Ketchikan, Saxman, Wrangell, Metlakatla and Coffman Cove. He spoke recently to KRBD about his early filing and goals if reelected.

Ortiz has served in the State House continuously since he was first elected in November 2014 as an Independent from Ketchikan.

Though the deadline for the next election isn’t until June of next year, Ortiz says he filed early because of speculation that he was not planning to run.

“And I just wanted to quell that. I had made the decision that I want to continue to serve if the voters will continue to support me.”

He says he would like to work on some unfinished business in the legislature, including creating a fiscal plan that is sustainable into the future. Ortiz says relying on oil taxes alone is not possible given that production over the past 20 years has fallen by 75 percent [WEB: from 2 million barrels of oil a day to 500,000]. He says it’s been a struggle trying to adjust for lost revenue.

“People still like to have their roads paid for. They still like to have their schools paid for. They still like to have other government services there when they need it. But they also like a large PFD, and they also like not paying taxes. They like all of that. And I do too. But that’s just not the reality of the future in terms of how you make ends meet.”

Ortiz says balancing the budget and providing services would require increasing taxes, reducing the Permanent Fund Dividend, managing overall spending or a combination of those. He says getting consensus among the Legislature and governor continues to be a challenge.

Ortiz also spoke about the Alaska Marine Highway System and the need for new vessels and more reliable service. He says state and federal funding is available, but it’s up to the Alaska Department of Transportation and the marine highway system to spend it.  Ortiz says ferry service will never be what it used to be but he would like to see something closer.

“Where you had regular ferry service to Prince Rupert. You had twice-a-week ferry service up and down coastal Alaska. Those kinds of things where schools and other user groups of the Marine Highway System, whether it’s fishermen getting their fish south to Prince Rupert so they can get it on the rail heading east. All those things are possibilities.”

Ortiz says if reelected, he will continue to advocate for the Marine Highway System.

Ortiz says another issue constituents mention is the need to repair state highways.  He says he’d like projects to happen more quickly, and while the Legislature appropriates the funds, it’s up to DOT to implement the projects.

“We know the players at DOT. We have to be in regular communication with them, trying to encourage them to do what they can so that the roads here in Southern Southeast Alaska are just as good as the roads in Juneau or just as good as the roads in Anchorage.”

Ortiz says that repair of Tongass Avenue and Water Street from the Hoadley Creek Bridge to the tunnel is on DOT’s schedule for this fall.

So far, Ortiz is the only candidate to file for House District 1. The last day to file for the state primary election is June 1, 2024. Primary election day is August 20 of next year.