House Democrats resist privatizing six DMVs - Must Read Alaska
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House Democrats resist privatizing six DMVs

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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.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • I think there should be more of this kind of thing if it saves the state money. Prisons are being privatized everywhere. Why not lowly DMVs?

  • Fields is the dumbest member in the Legislature. The other guy, Tompkins, is just on top of him.

    • Certainly, this is an interesting relationship.

    • Fields and Tompkins are not dumb. They know exactly what they are doing. They are advocating for their constituents in the public sector unions. Their behavior is not in the best interests of Alaska, but they don’t see that as their responsibility.

  • When most of the work can be done online, Privatization IS THE WAY TO GO. Union jobs/membership is threatened and that is the real reason they are objecting. So so sorry folks. Alaska’s budget can’t continue to employ redundant workers. How many today travel by horse, instead of by car or plane?

    • It’s be reported that the state DMV actually makes a nice hefty profit for the state it actually makes money for the state.

      • I would love to see some numbers on that. Maybe they do generate a good income, but what does it cost to keep them up and running? Payroll is a huge expense, not to mention keeping the State offices/buildings open, utilities, etc.

  • I’m on the fence on this one. We have a privatized one here in Juneau and I believe it was originally set up for the car dealerships. However, during COVID lock downs this was the only one open. The fees are much higher and we spent hundreds of dollars getting my daughter’s drivers license, while being treated very rudely. I will not go there again. The DMV here now has online reservations so you make your reservation, show up, and you’re immediately called up. So nice, decades of hating the DMV and now its a pleasant experience with friendly staff.

  • Currently right now, Delta has had both a semi-private and a total government DMV office open there for awhile now. Most the people in Delta say they would rather go to the semi-private one over the Government one. They say the private one is quicker and has better customer service.
    As for Tok, the current Tok DMV serves more than just the town of Tok, it also serves all the outlying surrounding communities from Eagle, Northway to the border, Dot Lake, and down towards Slana and on out. Plus it is the first DMV Office coming in from Canada for commercial drivers to have to purchase plates and permits. I think having the Delta people set up their semi-private DMV in Tok could work, beings how it is working in Delta, and Tok has enough business for it.

    • Identity theft of citizens is rampant throughout the U.S. and on the rise. In the community of Homer, Commissioner Tshibaka awarded a private partnership DMV contract to Homer Tags and Title, LLC. Following was taken from a public posting of the owner’s public information. In Delta Junction a contract was awarded.

      “Homer Tags and Title, LLC (): Multiple eviction notices, Domestic Violence charges, Federal IRS Tax Lien, Restraining orders and 10 DMV offenses and financial judgements.”

      The private partnership award in Delta Junction is similar.

      Swift Tag and Title,LLC )

      The owners have over 16 court records including multiple DMV offenses.

  • It is not true that the State would save millions of dollars by closing these 6 small offices. #1 There are no payroll savings that can be claimed as Commissioner Tshibaka has testified that no jobs are being terminated. The people employed will be relocated not terminated. The savings will be minimal for the State but the cost shifting to the residents in extra fees will be excessive and have significant negative impact on the people of these communities.

    • While these jobs may not be terminated, the positions would be and the employees lateral to another open position in lieu of a new hire. So yes, it will result in fewer state employees. Either way citizens will pay eventually, the only question being whether to a public or private entity and the acceptable level of service going with each.

  • I had to go to the private partner in Juneau because the state offices were not serving the public because of that gosh darn Covid.

  • This story is a classic reason why Alaska cannot balance its budget. In the eyes of Zack Fields and Jonathan Kreiss-Tompkins every government job and every government program is essential. They pander to their labor union base regardless of what is costs the state. And I suspect the republicans will do the same when it comes to embracing efficient operations in their territory.

  • The private dmv in craig actually provides service to all communities on POW Island. Please add in all population counts for these other communities & add in logging camps & rural lodges here as well.

  • This is called featherbedding, wherein politicians elected by voters in their district pay off the criminal enterprises called public sector unions, who contribute to their deceitful campaigns, by insisting management of state services do the job as inefficiently as possible. Never vote for a candidate who receives so much as one penny of union money. Never.

  • Yep, Skagway run by the municipality, the PD. Makes a little bit of money, maybe like 10,000 a year. That really is no different than private, except it’s still government. Who remembers when there were private operated DMV? In Skagway you used to go to the Cyr’s house to do your DMV, private business. Worked fine.

  • How ordinary. Comrades resisting clearly sensible efficiencies.

  • Good. The only thing worse than visiting the DMV is visiting these privately run DMVs

  • Easy way to bring Fields on board. Demand the privatized jobs be union jobs.

    There once was a time I would have been surprised to see Republicans oppose privatization. But not anymore. The Alaska GOP is the problem in Alaska. They have no spine, no convictions, appear to be for sake to the highest bidder, and can be counted on to do the stupidest possible thing at the worst possible time.

  • Privatize elements of the state government when excessive costs mandate restructuring. Let’s employ technology to greater affect.
    The Democratic ’empathy’ rhetoric does not work in business.

  • 1. Go to my FB page to hear Kelly Tshibaka discussing this issue. This topic is at 55 minute mark if you don’t want to watch the whole meeting
    2. DOA makes the recommendations to the Legislature, i.e. budget. Or as to the issue that seniors have to be in person every 10 years, that is a statute, nothing that DOA can do to change that. Thus the legislature would have to put forward a bill to remove that requirement.
    3. So this bill is stupid, point blank. DOA cannot close a DMV. They can recommend actions to save funds and improve services but the Legislature has to then agree via statute and/or budget.
    I put this meeting out via several FB pages, specifically Eagle Rivers page since many people have voiced anger about this. We had 200 people watch, the people that have shown a concern did not watch. I looked and didn’t see any names that I recognized. So make we wonder if this is not about DMV and DOA but more personal attacks.

    • Commisioner Tshibaka chose these 6 offices because they are very profitable. She claims she only chose offices on the road system. Haines is not on the road system. Haines residents including teens and Seniors will have to take a ferry or plane to Juneau. The Statute she refers to are statutes pertaining to Seniors and the requirement that they attend in person. The cost of this change will burden these small towns by cost shifting and taking services away. Resulting in doubling of costs.

  • Perhaps in certain areas up north the semi private ones work. The one here in Juneau helps take off the load for new car title transfers but I would not want it as the only outlet. We have a very good DMV here in Juneau with knowledgeable staff. I inherited a vehicle from my deceased father’s estate in Washington. Wow, what a battle getting the title changed. DMV here was very accommodating. They even have a rating system when your transaction is complete to judge the experience. Would hate to see them go and those jobs lost.

  • “Privatization of a handful of small Division of Motor Vehicles offices in Alaska would save the state millions of dollars…” ??????

    Based on what evidence? You are making up numbers to fit an agenda. The offices that were on the list take in far more than they cost, and and provide services that would otherwise not be available to many Alaskans. Additionally, privatization was attempted before, at least in some places, and failed. Maybe you should think about all Alaskans.

  • The government does absolutely nothing efficiently. NOTHING! When will people realize this?

  • Does the Privatization of a DMV(s) open up the possibility of communist democrat owner refusing business due to no mask or vaccine? No license renewal for you….

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