By Leigh Armstrong
Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed additional funding for the Alaska Marine Highway System that was added in by the Legislature.
The Legislature last month approved an additional $5 million for the ferry budget to help reduce the hit of a $43 million cut already imposed on the service.
Dunleavy used his line-item veto authority Aug. 19 to cut out the additional funding.
The governor called the legislative addition “premature” until the state and its consultant complete their review of ferry system operations. The consultant’s report to “reshape” the ferry system to operate at lower costs is due by Oct. 15, the governor said in his veto message.
The governor was referring to a $250,000 study that will look at possible privatization of the ferry system.
The governor has now finished his work on the state budget, upholding about half of the more than $400 million he had cut from public services. Legislators last month tried to restore most of the money, but Dunleavy rejected many of their appropriations a second time in the bill he signed Aug. 19.
The $43 million cut represents about one-third of the state ferry system’s annual budget.
Meanwhile, the Alaska Department of Transportation released a statement following Dunleavy’s veto, stating that it is working on finalizing the winter schedule.
“As the winter schedule is finalized, please keep in mind that AMHS funding for the fiscal year 2020 has been reduced by $43 million and the winter schedule is fiscally constrained,” the department said in a news release.
Recent ticket refunds of around $3 million for canceled voyages during the ferry workers strike also will be cutting into the budget, the department said.
The fall/winter schedule that starts Oct. 1 should be available for booking by the third week of September. Under the ferry system’s draft schedule, Skagway would see just one ferry a week for the first half of November and for six weeks from Jan. 15 to March 1.