Alaska Considering Visitor Fee

Governor proposes $15 'wildlife conservation pass,' seasonal sales tax to boost revenues

By: Steven Rosen

Alaska’s governor is proposing that tourists be required to buy a $15 “wildlife conservation pass” to visit his state.

The proposal was included in Gov. Frank H. Murkowski’s budget for fiscal year 2004 and is to be considered by a legislative committee March 14. Murkowski also is asking for a statewide sales tax during the May-to-September tourist season.

The governor estimates the sales tax would generate $35 million annually and the pass, $7.1 million, with at least a portion to be used for conservation programs. The budget calls for an overall savings of $55 million through cuts and new fees.

If approved, the fees would be collected by cruise lines, tour operators and other travel vendors.

“The way it’s conceived it would capture revenue from non-consumptive users of wildlife,” said John Manly, the governor’s press secretary. Consumptive users, such as hunters and fishermen, already must buy state licenses.

“It hasn’t been proposed before. There have been proposals in the legislature for a head tax on cruise-ship passengers, but in our view this is a different deal,” he said.