Gov. Walker Proposes Larger Ferry Budget

Students protest cuts in the marine highway system budget at the Kake ferry terminal in March. (Photo courtesy Adam Davis/Sustainable Southeast Partnership)
Students protest cuts in the marine highway system budget at the Kake ferry terminal in March. (Photo courtesy Adam Davis/Sustainable Southeast Partnership)

Gov. Bill Walker says the state ferry system needs more money to avoid “crippling cuts” during the next fiscal year.

Walker released a new operating budget Tuesday after the legislature adjourned Monday without fully funding state government.

His new spending plan for the special session adds $7 million for ferries. That’s less than half the amount lawmakers cut before adjourning.

Jeremy Woodrow is an Alaska Marine Highway System spokesman.

“We aren’t sure exactly where that service will be improved in the system. That’s something that the department will still need to review and evaluate before we can give a definite answer,” he says.

The House and Senate could still take the new ferry money out of the budget — or shrink the increase.

Any cuts will reduce sailings during the next fiscal year, which begins in July.

Woodrow says officials will notify ticket-holders of cancellations and other changes once the budget is done.

“When we do know a final schedule and we can guarantee that we’ve maximized that service with the budget that we’re given, we will put an announcement out and we will inform passengers what our process is, moving forward,” he says.

Woodrow says ticket-holders will be rescheduled in the order they made reservations.

Other spending increases proposed in the governor’s new budget include schools, Medicaid, the university system and domestic violence programs.

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Ed Schoenfeld is Regional News Director for CoastAlaska, a consortium of public radio stations in Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg and Wrangell. He primarily covers Southeast Alaska regional topics, including the state ferry system, transboundary mining, the Tongass National Forest and Native corporations and issues. He has also worked as a manager, editor and reporter for the Juneau Empire newspaper and Juneau public radio station KTOO. He’s also reported for commercial station KINY in Juneau and public stations KPFA in Berkley, WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and WUHY in Philadelphia. He’s lived in Alaska since 1979 and is a contributor to Alaska Public Radio Network newscasts, the Northwest (Public Radio) News Network and National Native News. He is a board member of the Alaska Press Club. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he lives in Douglas.