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Senate Capital Budget Procures Funds for Ferry Service, Repairs, and Vessel Replacement

Senate unanimously passes capital budget for fiscal year 2020

Posted, Edited By MARY KAUFFMAN


May 11, 2019
Saturday PM

(SitNews) Juneau, Alaska - During Governor Michael Dunleavy's recent internet town-hall meeting, the Governor said there has been talk of the administration shutting down the Alaska Marine Highway System, he said that is not going to happen. He said there was some information that went out saying the Alaska Marine Highway would shut down in October, and that is not going to happen.

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Gov. Dunleavy said they have sent out an RFP for a consultant to quickly help understand, for example, what schedules and what routes would continue in the current situation based upon the number of riders using those ferries between Alaska cities and on to Canada and Washington. The consultants will help the administration understand how to make the ferry system more efficient and continue to provide services for as many Alaskans as possible. This work will be done through the summer and fall. The Governor said during the town-hall he believes the administration will come up with a stronger ferry system and one that will be sustainable into the future.

With the current financial situation, the ferry system like some of Alaska's other systems, will not be sustainable unless the state becomes more efficient with the ferries said the Governor.

On March 1st, the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT&PF) issued a request for proposals (RFP) seeking qualified vendors for an Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) Economic Reshaping Consultant.

Proposals were due April 2, 2019, with the final AMHS report due to the Alaska Department of Transportation on October 15, 2019. The budget maximum is $250,000. The target date for implementation of changes to Alaska Marine Highway System remains the end of June 2020.

And on Wednesday, Senator Bert Stedman (R-Sitka) Co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee announced the committee approved numerous items in the capital budget related to the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS). Quoting a news release, changes made by the Senate Finance Committee would preserves the ability to keep Alaska's ferries operating and repaired as well as the ability to replace vessels.

Specifically, the Senate Finance Committee’s capital budget made these changes from the Governor’s proposed budget:

  • Reverses use of $47.3 million in AMHS vessel replacement funds for matching federal funds for non-AMHS purposes (ie: road construction, maintenance, and other uses).

  • Reverses use of $15.1 million in AMHS system funds for payments to the federal government if ferries and terminals were sold off.

  • Reverses use of $14.5 million in AMHS operating system funds for other state services and non-AMHS purposes.

  • Adds $17.9 million in new state funds to the AMHS budget for annual overhauls and repairs to the ferries.

Between both the capital and supplemental operating budgets, the Senate Finance Committee provides for $77 million in AMHS funds for future use by the ferry system and added $17.9 million in state funds for a total benefit to the Alaska Marine Highway System of $94.9 million.

Senate Bill 19  passed the Senate by a 20-0 vote last Wednesday and sent back to the Alaska House of Representatives for consideration.

According to a news release from the office of Senator Natasha Von Imhof, the capital budget passed by the Senate includes $174 million in unrestricted general funds (UGF) to leverage over $1 billion in federal funds for roads, highways, airports, and clean water for villages. 

“This budget prioritizes the public health and safety of Alaskans,” said Senator Natasha von Imhof (R-Anchorage) co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee. “This is a small capital budget compared to previous years, especially for a state that’s 663,000 square miles – or the size of about one-third of the U.S. – has nearly 7,000 miles of coastline, hundreds of airports and many communities only accessible by air, boat or dogsled. This massive geographical expanse, with transportation challenges, costs money to build roads, schools, health clinics and provide public safety.”     

Some of the key items passed Wednesday by the Senate with a 20-0 vote in the capital budget include: 

  • $71 million for statewide deferred maintenance;

  • $25 million in receipt authority for the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation to allow the corporation to accept private funds to finish the federal permitting process; 

  • $16.5 million for the Alaska Marine Highway System for ferry vessel overhaul; ( $1.4 million less than the $17.9 million in new state funds approved by the Senate Finance Committee to the AMHS budget for annual overhauls and repairs to the ferries.)

  • $12 million to access $52 million in federal funds for village safe water projects;

  • $2.5 million to Arctic Strategic Transportation and Resources to connect North Slope communities to resources; 

  • $2 million in federal receipt authority for the Department of Natural Resources to address the Spruce Beetle infestation; and 

  • $60,000 to access $6 million in federal funding for community block grants. 

“This capital budget maximizes federal matching funds to boost investment in Alaska,” Sen. von Imhof added. “Capital projects attract outside investment, provide jobs and ensure continued freedom of movement – one of our most cherished liberties. This capital budget gets the job done.” 

The 2019 legislative session is scheduled to adjourn by Wednesday, May 15, 2019.



Source of News:

Senate Finance Committee

Alaska Senate

Office of the Governor


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