Senate Finance approves funding for tourism, with a catch

Posted: Wednesday, February 20, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- Alaska's travel industry would get $6 million to market the state to vacationers this year under a plan approved by the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday.

But the industry will have to work for it. It will have to generate more than $820,000 in matching funds this year and come up with a plan to wean itself from state support.

Senate Finance Co-Chairman Dave Donley offered the amendment to the proposal to aid the tourism industry to negate the effects of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The industry has complained that fears of traveling abroad after the attacks will have a chilling effect on the state's vacation industry.

Alaska Travel Industry Association had asked for more than $12 million in emergency funds to help it market the state to potential vacationers in the Lower 48.

The state House approved $6 million in general fund assistance for this year under a measure that Senate Finance took up on Tuesday.

Donley's proposal would take $5.1 million from the state's international trade and business endowment. It would combine that with $828,500 from the state's general fund, which ATIA would have to match dollar-for-dollar.

The organization would also have to devise a plan to replace state funding for tourism marketing within 60 days of the bill becoming law.

Donley, a Republican from Anchorage, said the proposal sends a message that Alaska doesn't have deep pockets.

Lawmakers are wresting to close a $865 million budget deficit that's projected to grow to $1.1 billion by next year. Donley said this measure finds existing funds to pay for the request and also requires the industry to participate.

Tina Lindgren, ATIA president, said her organization has the matching funds to meet the goal.

The group has a $6.9 million contract with the state, of which the association is required to raise $2.1 million as a match, Lindgren said. Her group expects to raise $3.2 million this year, she said.

The Senate Finance Committee approved the measure by a 5-1 vote. Sen. Alan Austerman, R-Kodiak, cast the only vote against it.

Austerman complained that the plan would take funds from an endowment to meet the request while the state Senate hasn't taken up the larger issue of closing the so-called ''fiscal gap.''

His vote came after failing to attach an amendment that would spend $2 million from the state's general fund to help market the state's struggling salmon industry.

''We're reaching out and grabbing from all these savings accounts to get money. We need a plan,'' Austerman said.

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