Dunleavy administration withdraws DMV privatization plan

A building in front of asidewalk
The DMV office in Haines, Alaska. (Courtesy of State of Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles)

The Dunleavy administration is no longer seeking private vendors to replace six state-run Division of Motor Vehicles offices.

The department that includes the DMV sent a letter April 14 confirming it would keep state-run offices open in Haines, Homer, Valdez, Delta Junction, Eagle River and Tok for at least another year.

The Department of Administration’s acting commissioner’s one-page letter was addressed to Rep. Zack Fields (D-Anchorage). He had introduced a bill designed to block the plan.

“It’s great news to see the administration cancel its proposal to close down DMVs in rural Alaska,” Fields told CoastAlaska.

He was among a bipartisan group of lawmakers who had objected to the privatization plan, arguing that it would increase the cost for routine DMV services in those communities. That’s because private vendors charge their own fee, in addition to what the state charges.

The Department of Administration offered this price comparison between state-run DMV offices and a private vendor UMV during a March 11, 2021 presentation to a House Finance subcommittee. It shows the cost differences between using a public office and going through a private service.

Fields says he reached out to the governor’s office Wednesday urging them to abandon the idea given that Department of Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka — who had been pursuing the idea — was no longer in state service.

I thought it was a good time for the administration to formally announce the cancellation of the DMV closure proposal,” he said.

Kelly Tshibaka left the Dunleavy administration last month to run for office. She’s challenging U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski in next year’s election.

Reps. Adam Wool (D-Fairbanks) and Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (D-Sitka) “played a key role” in keeping money in the budget to keep rural DMVs open, Fields added. “And I think they deserve credit for that.”

Jacob Resneck is CoastAlaska's regional news director in Juneau.

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