Ketchikan Needs CVP Funds
By DAN ORTIZ
May 20, 2015
(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska - The Alaska State Legislature is midway into the special session called by Governor Walker. The Senate Majority Leadership and the House Minority continue to be locked in a stalemate over priorities in our attempts to reduce state spending while maintaining essential services. There have been very few, if any direct negotiations/discussions between the parties involved since the recess in the special session that was called for by the House and Senate majorities. Simply put, we in the Legislature are not doing the work of the Alaskan people, that we were elected to do. Many of us, in both bodies, are extremely frustrated by this fact. We are very much aware of the tough position we are leaving local governments and school districts in by our inactivity.
As state revenues have been greatly diminished, there have been several attempts by those in leadership positions to “redirect” existing revenue streams. One of the best examples of this was the attempt by Senate leadership to “examine” the Commercial Passenger Vessel Tax Fund, or the ‘CPV.’ The city of Ketchikan recently responded to questions raised by Senate Finance co-chair, Senator Mackinnon, regarding the use of Ketchikan’s CPV tax funding. In his response letter, Mayor Williams explained “It is very costly to operate and maintain port facilities in Southeast Alaska because of inclement weather and wear and tear from heavy use during the peak cruise ship season.” This is an important point, not often understood by those in districts without cruise ships. It is expensive to be a tourist destination. The ‘CPV’ tax funding is crucial. The cruise ships and their passengers have many needs, and our town cannot afford to meet them without a head tax.
The letter generally described the use of these funds as ‘investments,’ which is the most accurate way to describe Ketchikan’s use of these funds. The city of Ketchikan has a long history of demonstrated, responsible decisions regarding distribution of the head tax revenue. The revenue has historically been invested in necessary infrastructure for cruise ships and their passengers, including berths, seawalls, and promenades that are crucial to a safe and active waterfront. There are many expenses as our district adjusts to the increasing changes and technologies of cruise ships. It is important that our berths can accommodate the configurations of newer and modified ships. The importance of continuing the distribution of CPV funds to Ketchikan must be recognized by Senate Finance. I appreciate the efforts of city and borough elected leaders as well as Borough Manager Bockhurst and City Manager Amylon in assisting Senator Stedman and myself in helping to bring about that needed recognition. Through these combined efforts, I’m happy to report that the CPV tax revenue will continue to flow in the direction of Ketchikan and other cruise ship ports of call which was the original purpose of the tax.
Ortiz is an independent member of the Alaska House of Representatives, who has since 2015 represented the 36th District. He is the only independent in the Alaska State Legislature.