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Alaska state ferries may stop running due to budget turmoil

Alaska Marine Highway System spokesperson Jeremy Woodrow says the 11 ships in the fleet will head to their home ports as close to July 1 as possible in case of service disruption.

State is facing $3B budget shortfall

The MV Malaspina departs from Juneau. Alaska Marine Highway System spokesperson Jeremy Woodrow says the 11 ships in the fleet will head to their home ports as close to July 1 as possible in case of service disruption. (John Hyde/Alaska Marine Highway System)

All Alaska state ferries will stop sailing by early July if the Alaska Legislature fails to reach a budget deal.

The Alaska Marine Highway System's plan is among dozens of state service cuts announced this week. Alaska is facing a $3 billion budget shortfall, worsened by a global oil price plunge, and lawmakers have been fighting for more than four months over how to fund day-to-day operations.

The state House and Senate have differed on how much they can cut without hurting services to the 750,000 residents.

Ferries spokesperson Jeremy Woodrow says the 11 ships in the fleet will head to their home ports as close to July 1 as possible.

"We can't play guessing games that there will be a fully-funded budget at some point and so we have to play it safe and have the ships enter lay-up status in July," he said.

Woodrow says some ferries will stop sailing in the final days of June, while others will tie up a few days later. A skeleton crew will remain with each ship to keep it ready to return to service.

The Alaska Marine Highway System has not yet cancelled reservations for July because the budget situation may be resolved before the shutdown date. If the shutdown happens, reservations will be cancelled and refunds issued.

The ferry system serves 35 communities, only five of which are on the road system. 

with files from Reuters

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