Legislative subcommittee approves $18.7M for AMHS

A rally in support of the Alaska Marine Highway System held at Cordova Ferry Terminal. (Feb. 11, 2020) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Members of a House budget subcommittee working on the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities’ budget voted today to add $18.7 million into the Alaska Marine Highway System budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

“We need to do something now to get ferries operating,” said Speaker of the House Bruce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, and a member of the subcommittee.

Still, there is a long way to go for those funds to be accessible for AMHS. The budget proposal now heads to the House Finance Committee for consideration. Then it must be vetted on the House floor, in the Senate and finalized by Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

“Shelves in grocery stores are empty,” said Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, also a member of the DOT budget subcommittee, chair of the House Transportation Committee and a member of the Alaska Marine Highway Reshaping Work Group.

“Alaskans are missing medical appointments. Mothers are turning to Facebook to find diapers for their babies. The Alaska Marine Highway System’s struggles are felt statewide,” she said. “Today’s amendment is about making sure ferry service resumes so coastal Alaskans can get back to life as normal.”

“Funds voted on today will be significant reinstating stable service to people across Alaska,” said Rep. Andi Story, D-Juneau. “We will continue working until the ferries are up and running again.”