Privatization of a handful of small Division of Motor Vehicles offices in Alaska would save the state millions of dollars, but Rep. Zack Fields is having none of it.
He and Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tompkins will introduce a bill to prevent privatization of the small DMV offices in Eagle River, Homer, Tok, Valdez, Delta Junction, and Haines.
“We’re all in this really challenging time of having to span a $2 billion budget gap,” Commissioner of Administration Kelly Tshibaka told members of the Senate Transportation Committee on March 4. She said the proposal would preserve services, while trimming the budget, and that 95 percent of services provided by DMV offices can be completed online.
DMV offices have begun the transition to public- private partnerships:
- Delta Junction – private partner already in operation with DMV
- Tok – private partner in Delta Junction willing to operate DMV
- Homer – Active discussions with qualified private partners
- Eagle River – Active discussions with qualified private partners
- Valdez – Active discussions with qualified private partners
- Haines – Actively recruiting qualified private partners
The House bill opposing the privatization that is not yet filed is “aimed at preventing negative consequences for Alaskans in each of the communities facing potential impacts,” according to the House majority press office. Mainly, no additional fees could be charged for services, nor could services be limited due to privatization.
Those negative consequences are laid out by the representatives fighting the privatization:
“For example, elimination of DMV services in Haines would force residents to travel by boat or make an extremely long road trip with multiple border crossings to access a DMV in Skagway. In Valdez, residents would be forced to drive 120 miles over a mountain pass that is sometimes impassable in winter or take a ferry to Anchorage. In Eagle River, residents would face significant delays, particularly those attempting to travel to an Anchorage DMV during rush hour. And in Tok and Delta Junction, the closure would force residents to drive as far as 200 miles for DMV services in weather conditions that can be deadly in winter in the event of a vehicle breakdown. Even if the facilities were replaced by private companies, prices are likely to double for key services.”
The Skagway DMV is operated under contract with the Skagway Police Department, while other DMVs, such as in King Salmon, are operated under contract with the borough. The City of Craig has the contract to operate the DMV in that Prince of Wales Island community of 1,200 residents. There are also numerous tag-and-title companies along the Railbelt that provide many services to Alaska residents.
Department of Administration said that Homer’s DMV generated $497,921 in revenue for the state in 2020, for a net revenue of $333,921, while Haines’ had a net loss of $968 the same year.
The proposal to privatize the DMV offices in the six communities faces significant headwinds in the Senate, where several senators, including Republicans, have raised questions about the wisdom of the proposal.