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Measure 1 slips behind as vote count nears completion

Property tax exemption measure lagging by just over 1,000 votes

Posted: August 29, 2012 - 11:06pm

What was a narrow election night lead for Ballot Measure 1 on Tuesday turned upside-down as more precincts reported their vote totals overnight.

By Wednesday evening, with 99.3 percent of precincts reporting, unofficial election results showed Measure 1 failing with 49.4 percent support.

The measure, which was championed by former Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker, would have increased the maximum property tax exemption from $20,000 of a property’s value to $50,000.

Boroughs or municipalities wishing to make the adjustment would have had to get voter approval before an exemption increase took effect.

Proponents said the measure would provide tax relief for the middle class and give local governments more control over their revenue options, while opponents contended that the exemption changes it would allow could potentially force boroughs and municipalities to increase taxes in order to make up the difference.

Shortly before noon Wednesday, state election systems manager Shelly Growden said 10 rural precincts had not reported overnight.

“These are mainly hand-count precincts that we’re trying to get in touch with,” Growden said. “These aren’t big precincts.”

All but three of those precincts were reporting by Wednesday evening.

Growden cautioned that results are still unofficial. Absentee ballots postmarked by Tuesday can still be counted within 10 days if they were mailed from the United States or 15 days if they were mailed from another country, she said.

With Measure 1 trailing by 1,242 votes out of 104,740 counted, that allows supporters a small glimmer of hope. It is unknown how many absentee ballots are outstanding or in which direction they will break.

But Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre, a Measure 1 skeptic, said he does not see how the measure will succeed at this point barring something unexpected.

“I guess I’m not disappointed that it did not pass,” said Navarre, who added that he did not vote in favor of the measure. He said even though the exemption increase would have only been optional, it would have “put a lot of pressure” on local governments and voters to approve it.

“The impact always lands somewhere else, and that’s tough to sort out,” Navarre added.

Whitaker said Wednesday afternoon that he had not been following results closely the day after the primary. But he attributed the tightness of the race to “misinformation,” saying the measure’s opponents distorted what it would do.

“I think that there was some misinformation that was disseminated, and that’s unfortunate,” said Whitaker.

Measure 1 attracted little local attention in Juneau, with Ballot Measure 2, to establish a coastal management program, taking up most of the oxygen in Alaska’s capital city. Navarre said it was much the same in his borough, among other parts of the state.

Juneau’s legislative delegation split over Measure 2, with Democrats Sen. Dennis Egan and Rep. Beth Kerttula endorsing it and Republican Rep. Cathy Muñoz opposing it.

Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho, as chairman of the pro-Measure 2 Alaska Sea Party, was one of the measure’s most visible supporters. City and Borough of Juneau Assemblymember Jesse Kiehl and Assembly candidate Loren Jones were also prominent local backers.

Despite some local enthusiasm over Measure 2, with supporters waving signs near the Juneau-Douglas Bridge earlier this week to encourage people to vote for the measure, Alaskan voters soundly defeated it Tuesday. As of Wednesday evening, unofficial results showed it at just 38.1 percent support statewide.

“Vote No on 2” co-chairman Kurt Fredriksson, a former Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner who serves as chairman of the Juneau Economic Development Council’s board of directors, said Tuesday evening that he expects the Alaska State Legislature to take up the issue of coastal management next year.

Fredriksson and Botelho both stated their desire for both sides on Measure 2 to work together toward common goals.

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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