Marine highway corporation passes first hurdle

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) The Alaska house transportation committee voted 5-2 to draft legislation to create an Alaska Marine Highway corporation.

    The committee majority predicted it would help the ferry system become more consistent, and perhaps more self sustaining financially.

    Rep. Chuck Kopp said a private board brings a lot of expertise in business to the table, "I can't overstate how enthusiastic I am of this process going forward.  Just the idea of professional board expertise versus trying to get 60 legislators up to speed on teh complex issues of the Marine highway system.  Imagine if we were trying to run the Anchorage International airport as a legislature.  It would be a disaster."

    Kopp predicted the corporation could lower costs as they negotiate with unionized workers directly. 

    Committee Chairwoman Louise Stutes says politics often plays a role in how the ferry system is operated, "The huge benefit that I see is a static board as opposed to a turnover or a potential turnover of a commissioner every four years.  It greatly affects the stability of those agencies and the ability of them to continue down the same line."

    Rep. Matt Claman says late budgets often tie the hands of the Marine highway system, "I think its a very positive step.  We've seen in the past few years that the Marine highway system is hamstrung on ways to maximize revenue because they wait for us to approve a budget.  They can't even put out a schedule out in advance of the tourist season so they can get as much revenue coming into the system as reasonably possible."


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