Gov. Parnell is criticizing legislators who refused to provide tourism marketing money he’d sought, and says their actions will threaten the state’s tourism economy.
“It’s kind of an awful kick in the butt by them,” Parnell told reporters Thursday.
He spoke as the House of Representatives was passing a $5.7 billion general fund budget which provides $2.7 million for the Alaska Travel Industry Association’s tourism marketing, not the $9.3 million Parnell had sought.
Parnell said the legislative action runs counter to his efforts to bring more jobs and business to the state.
After Alaska voters imposed a cruise ship passenger head tax in 2006, the cruise industry pulled its funding for ATIA, which has previously been matched 50-50 by the state.
Legislators and ATIA agreed to the state would make up the difference for three years by picking up a 70-30 share of marketing costs.
That was to give ATIA time to develop a new funding plan, but no acceptable plan emerged. The legislators then reverted to a 50-50 match, but all the industry said it could afford was to contribute was the $2.7 million it had been contributing for the past three years.
That’s despite Parnell successfully persuading the Legislature last year to roll back the voter-adopted head tax in an effort to woo cruise ships back to Alaska.
He said Alaska should increase its marketing efforts, but not expect those companies to pay more.
”I think they kick in enough already,” he said.
Parnell said the new, open-for-business message is already working for the state.
“We’ve got five or six companies that are bringing ships back to Alaska,” he said.
He named Disney, Oceania Crystal Cruises and Princess, but it is not clear he can claim credit for all those.
Disney announced in September of 2009 it would be sending one of its cruise ships to Alaska, well before the 2010 Legislature reduced the head tax.
Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska President Bob Berto said ship visits this coming summer will be about what they were in 2010, but a Princess ship will be returning in 2011.
Still, he said Parnell’s pro-cruise attitude is appreciated by the industry.
“Before we were losing voyages,” he said. “If nothing else, that’s turned around.
Parnell spokesperson Sharon Leighow was unavailable to clarify Parnell’s statement.
Parnell said he will attend the annual Seatrade Cruise Shipping Miami convention next week to continue to pitch Alaska as a place to do business.
He was the first Alaska governor ever to attend the conference last year when he went to tell the industry that he’d be working to reduce the head tax. This year, he said, he’s going to tell them Alaska wants even more ships.
“I plan to kick that door even wider open for Alaska,” he said.
• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 586-4816 or Patrick.firstname.lastname@example.org.