Shirley Marquardt, appointed by Gov. Bill Walker as executive director of the Alaska Marine Highway System, has been sent home. Tuesday was her last day.
Marquardt was the director of Boards and Commissions for Walker when he moved her into the Department of Transportation to oversee the ferry system. The Walker Administration relocated her to Ketchikan in August in what some saw as an election year move to bolster Walker’s reelection odds in southern Southeast Alaska.
Although the position, which had been created for her, has been discontinued, John Falvey remains as the division director for Marine Highways.
Gov. Michael Dunleavy is going a different direction with ferries than past administrations. Due to severe revenue shortfalls, his plan to balance the state budget strips much of the funding for the system, which is heavily subsidized and poorly utilized. Dunleavy’s Administration would prefer to see the private sector pick up some of the current routes.
Dunleavy’s budget proposes a $95.6 million cut to the ferry system, which represents a 69 percent reduction and will result in the sale of a couple of the more costly vessels. The governor’s proposed funding for ferries is $42.4 million.
The Senate budget cuts ferry funding by $43.6 million, but the House only was able to find $10.9 million in cuts. Those two budgets will be reconciled into a final legislative budget in the next several days during conference committee, and then will be transmitted to the governor for his likely vetoes.