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Dunleavy veto takes a chunk out of funding for Alaska marine vessel tracking

JUNEAU — Alaska’s primary provider of real-time marine vessel tracking has lost a portion of its funding to cuts by the governor to the state’s 2020 capital budget, a report said.

The Marine Exchange of Alaska lost 11% of its state funding under a veto by Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy, CoastAlaska reported Wednesday.

The Legislature restored $400,000 in cruise ship passenger revenue to support the network of ship-tracking stations. Dunleavy retained the cut through a second veto.

The maritime industry pays a fee to the Marine Exchange to track vessels in real time including cruise liners, cargo ships, oil tankers, and fishing boats.

The Marine Exchange funding was to be drawn from the $34.50 head tax paid by every cruise ship passenger visiting Alaska. The governor has suggested the tax revenue should be redirected to port projects across coastal communities.

The Marine Exchange has received about $2.8 million in head taxes since 2013 and the governor believes it should look elsewhere, said Dunleavy spokesman Matt Shuckerow.

"While they have done good work, they seem to be an organization that has unspent funds that can begin looking at new ways to operate," Shuckerow said.

The head tax money is restricted and must be appropriated by the Legislature, said Marine Exchange Executive Director Ed Page.

“It’s not a fund that could be used for other public services or for schools or for housing or drug programs or what-have-you, it’s restricted to maritime application,” Page said.