Alaska AG to defend cruise ship tax

Chris Rizo Sep. 22, 2009, 2:33am

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Legal Newsline)--Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan says he will defend the state against a lawsuit challenging the cruise ship passenger head tax.

The Alaska Cruise Association has filed a lawsuit to overturn the state's voter-approved $50 head tax, arguing the levy violates federal law that prohibits states from charging passenger fees for non-related services.

The lawsuit says $46 of the tax is used to fund infrastructure improvements, while the remaining $4 supports the Ocean Ranger program that monitors pollution in Alaska waters.

The lawsuit points out that some of the money collected from the tax has gone to bankroll projects that have nothing to do with cruise ships and their passengers, including the $1.5 million in funds used to reconstruct a community hall in Ketchikan.

The cruise ship head tax was part of a measure passed by 52 percent of voters in 2006.

"The proponents of this entry fee promoted it as a way to make visitors to Alaska pay for government projects that have nothing to do with the burdens the state and its municipalities bear as a direct result of cruise ships calling in Alaska ports," the Alaska Cruise Association said in its lawsuit.

The group represents such cruise lines as Royal Caribbean Cruises, Carnival Corp. and Norwegian Cruise Line.

In a statement, Sullivan said he will "vigorously defend" the fee, which is levied on each passenger traveling for at least 72 hours on ships with 250 or more berths.

"The cruise ship industry has been threatening to sue the state ever since Alaska citizens voted to require passengers to pay their fair share of the costs of services and facilities provided to host them," Sullivan said Friday in a statement.

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