As of Mother’s Day, we now know that our Senate in Alaska has voted down an income tax option as one of the means to help us through the budget problem. No compromise is tolerated they say. Sen. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage, is quoted as saying: “We are bringing this bill forward for a vote to provide clarity to Alaskans, the administration, and the other body about what our future will and will not entail. Unfortunately, few policies are more devastating for small businesses and working Alaskans.” It is hard to understand how a stabilizing revenue plan could be damaging to the commercial economy in Alaska, than is further cutting the budget. The math isn’t hard. Just subtract jobs (and friends and neighbors) and money from our economy.
I must remind the Senate majority, who designed a survey at the start of the session to get responses to questions about new revenue sources: More than half of respondents were in favor of a state sales tax, income tax and some sort of permanent fund earnings restructuring that would cap the dividend. They were also in support of increasing taxes on motor fuels and strongly in favor — 64.7 percent — of reducing oil tax credits to producers. Did you listen at all to the results of your own survey?
The Rasmuson Foundation poll in 2015 tried to measure the “Alaska Attitudes on the State Fiscal Climate” and that survey reveals that tapping the excess earnings of the Permanent Fund and capping the amount of the annual dividend were the most popular revenue options. By a two-to-one margin, those surveyed would rather pay sales or income tax than experience deep cuts to essential public services.
Senate President Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, said after the recent vote that the Senate would not “penalize Alaskans for having a job.” This logic astounds me; I suppose you can’t “penalize” somebody with income tax if they don’t have a job because you eliminated it with inaction or cuts. What a great policy. No responsible person I respect would ever say something like that quote from Kelly. I never thought of paying my own way for services I need from the government as a penalty for working. What distorted, perverse thinking that is, but it seems it is rife in our Senate. Somehow investing in and being responsible for my government is so anathema to the majority of the Senate that they are willing to risk bad credit ratings, bonding, many future jobs and our education system just to starve our government into a sad, demoralized, depleted corps of besieged workers who can’t keep up with their workload because they have lost their compatriots. This is not the Alaska I want nor could ever support. This is not why I voted for the Permanent Fund! This Senate vote is shameful to us who care about our state’s future. Kelly and his majority prevent me from paying my fair share to make Alaska better while keeping us dependent on vanishing oil revenues and the oil industry’s power over us. He can’t even conceive of this “responsible adult” view of the world. But many of us do want to have and pay for a government responsible to us. We need to get Kelly into the private sector as quickly as possible so he can reap the whirlwind he so wants to create. Certainly we need him out of the Senate. And as soon as possible.
• Richard Seifert is a retired professor and politically active Fairbanks resident, a “student of the Permanent Fund and lover of all things Alaska.” He has been an Alaska resident for 47 years.