More Alaska ports — especially Juneau and Ketchikan — will have money for major harbor and dock projects from the cruise ship passenger tax. The cruise industry will get a reduction in that tax — but not until 2011, allowing the state to collect at the current rate of $46 a head this year, worth $39 million. The final deal on the cruise ship tax turned the bill into a boon for Ketchikan and Juneau, which now will collect not only their own head taxes, but $5 from the state as well. That should cover their waterfront needs in accommodating the cruise industry.
Five other cruise ports will share in the state's take at $5 a head, their totals depending on the number of passengers who call.
Senate Bill 312 gives the cruise industry some of what it wanted and keeps a decent tax take for Alaska's ports, with the busiest rightly getting the largest share. The bill clarifies that the money collected is to be used within shouting distance of the waterfront, as federal law requires. The bill keeps intact the principle established by the 2006 cruise ship initiative that Alaska can and will require a profitable industry to pay its way here and protect our environment.
At the same time, the bill eases the tax burden to encourage the cruise industry to restore and increase Alaska cruise traffic, which makes up most of the tourism industry here.
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