Ketchikan borough rejects cruise ship tax

Posted: Wednesday, August 20, 2003

KETCHIKAN (AP) The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly on Monday backed away from a plan to ask voters to impose a $5 head tax on cruise ship passengers.

The move came after tourism industry supporters packed the assembly's meeting to speak out against the proposal.

Ketchikan resident Len Laurance said the passenger tax appeared to be a desperate move to pay for borough expenses without regard to the loss of jobs he believes would result.

He pointed out that cruise ships in southcentral Alaska rerouted vessels from Whittier to Seward a decade ago after Whittier imposed a $1 passenger tax.

After Whittier repealed its tax this year, Princess Tours one of the major cruise-ship companies sailing in Alaska agreed to return to the Prince William Sound community next year.

Saxman Mayor Dan Williams also expressed fear the measure would hurt Ketchikan's one growing industry.

''Right now tourism is growing. It's growing more than life itself,'' Williams said. That could all change if the borough imposed a head tax and cruise lines decided to bypass Ketchikan, he said.

''Ketchikan is not a mandatory stop, it's a chosen stop,'' Williams said.

City of Ketchikan Manager Karl Amylon said the tax would hinder the city's plans to expand its ports. The massive expansion would not be possible without contributions from the cruise industry, he said.

Although the industry has yet to commit to helping fund the port expansion, Amylon said he believes the city could persuade the industry to participate in the project.

If the assembly had approved the tax measure, it would have gone before voters in the October municipal election. The measure died after no one on the assembly moved to bring it up for a vote.

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