JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska state House lawmakers took a first step to bolster funding to the Alaska Marine Highway System in an attempt to restore ferry service to stranded communities.
Members of a House Transportation subcommittee approved an additional $11.3 million appropriation last week, CoastAlaska reported Sunday.
The budget authorization totalled $18.7 million in spending authority with projected revenues from ticket sales.
The budget amendment will need approval by both the state House and Senate and the signature of Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
“The intent is to provide basic minimal service to coastal communities in Alaska by the marine highway system,” Republican Rep. Louise Stutes of Kodiak said.
A $43 million budget cut last year produced bare bones ferry schedules that left some communities without winter service.
Reduced funding for maintenance also forced the state to rely on just one mainline ferry to provide regional service. That ship, the Matanuska, broke down last month.
With the Matanuska off line, all service has been suspended until March, with the exception of a small ferry that shuttles between Ketchikan and Metlakatla.
Hundreds of people rallied across the state last week for fully funded ferries as some coastal communities face shortages of food and goods due to the lack of service.
Dunleavy also proposed $12 million in supplemental funding in the current year’s budget. The money would pay for existing operations and overhaul work, but would not expand service.
The Associated Press