The funding level for the ocean rangers program is no fault of Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel. Hoffman told me he was misled by House Finance members and their budget staff in the free-conference committee.
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When Hoffman called an at-ease to get more information, he was told by House members that the Department of Environmental Conservation said $1.1 million was sufficient 2007 funding. Thus, $1.3 million was cut from the rangers in the last minutes of discussion, based on a lie, and despite the fact that cruise passengers support and pay for the observer program with their ticket fare.
When Hoffman was advised of the duplicitous situation the next morning, he was shocked and said proper funding would be restored in a supplemental budget bill at the first opportunity.
Direct responsibility for short-funding the ocean rangers rests squarely in the hands of Reps. Mike Chenault and Kevin Meyer, who have actively opposed the cruise ship environmental program since its inception.