Dunleavy veto wipes $ 8.5 million from Alaska ferry budget

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Governor Mike Dunleavy vetoed about 12% of the ferry’s operating budget on Thursday. That leaves the Alaska Marine Highway System almost $ 8.5 million less to operate its ships over the next 18 months.

Governor Mike Dunleavy (Dunleavy Flckr)

Dunleavy told reporters the vetoes were in response to additional funding added by lawmakers.

The money that we discussed, the money that we agreed to put in the budget – is in the budget, ”he told reporters on Thursday. “There was just more extra money; it is the money that we have withdrawn and put aside.

The governor and lawmakers agreed to pre-fund the ferry system for a year and a half to give the Department of Transportation more flexibility in planning and operations.

A $ 250,000 study commissioned by his administration and the the recommendations of a nine-member working group were delivered at the end of 2020 but to date there have been few initiatives outside the recent sale of the two fast ferries of the maritime motorway.

Dunleavy says supervisory board could help steer fleet

The governor has yet to sign a near-unanimous bill to create a supervisory board for the ferry system. But he says if this bill passes, the operations board could get to work on long-term goals for the fleet.

I think we are on the right track to put together the pieces that we said we were going to put in place and get input from the people who will be in this group, ”Dunleavy said in response to a question about the future. of the fleet.

Coastal lawmakers unimpressed

This is the third time in as many years that Governor Dunleavy used his veto to cut funding for ferries. Last year he wiped out more than $ 15 million from the Sea Highway budget, which has struggled to long service gaps for coastal communities.

“The governor’s cut in the ferry system only kicks the system while it’s down,” Senator Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, told CoastAlaska shortly after the announcement. “After three years of this, we can tell what the governor’s program is for the marine road network.”

Lawmakers will return to Juneau in August to deal with unfinished business on the budget. It takes a vote of three quarters of the legislature to override a veto.


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