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Dunleavy cuts $5 million in Alaska ferry funding added back by Legislature

JUNEAU - Gov. Mike Dunleavy has vetoed additional funding for the Alaska ferry service that was placed in the budget by the Legislature, a report said.

Dunleavy vetoed $5 million Monday that was added to the Alaska Marine Highway System budget by the Legislature, CoastAlaska reported Monday.

The Legislature previously cut $43 million from the ferry system's budget.

A fiscal note attached by the governor's office called the budget item "premature" ahead of a $250,000 study commissioned to reshape the ferry system. The ferry study is due in mid-October, the note said.

"I don't know how it could be premature," said independent state Rep. Dan Ortiz of Ketchikan. "We could see that these areas were going to be without needed services."

Coastal residents have told Ortiz they are prevented from traveling even in emergency situations unless they find airplane travel while facing up to seven months without ferry service, he said.

"They don't have access to medical care if they're not allowed to fly because now the marine highway is not there for them," Ortiz said.

The Alaska Department of Transportation released a statement following the governor’s announcement saying it is finalizing the winter ferry schedule. A draft schedule released last month did not propose ferry service on Prince William Sound between October and May.

The state's economy will be hurt by cutting off commerce between communities, said Cordova Mayor Clay Koplin.

“It’s pretty simple economics,” Koplin said. “We either do business in the state and have a ferry system and a (marine) highway we can use or we have to look for alternatives.”

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