Cities make pitch for sharing wealth to Palin

Proposal would devote 6 percent of resource revenues to towns

Posted: Thursday, January 25, 2007

Alaska's cities and boroughs are hoping to share in the state's bounty this year, and former Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin may be able to help them from her new position as governor.

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Members of the Alaska Municipal League and the Alaska Conference of Mayors met in downtown Juneau on Wednesday, talking money with Palin.

What the league wants from Palin and the Alaska Legislature is a share of the state's natural resources wealth. The group represents communities throughout the state, many of which are struggling with rising costs, such as health care and fuel.

The league's latest revenue-sharing proposal would devote 6 percent of revenues from natural resources such as oil and mining to municipalities.

The proposed distribution formula provides $25,000 to each unincorporated city, $75,000 to each incorporated city and $250,000 to each borough, with the remainder distributed on a per capita basis.

Kodiak Island Borough Mayor Jerome Selby said the state's natural resources belong to the people and the state should share it with local communities.

"We're simply saying 'send a little bit back to the people,'" he said.

Palin said her administration inherited from former Gov. Frank Murkowski a budget with a "level of funding that was unsustainable."

She said she's trying to develop a budget the state can afford year after year, but she had managed to include $48 million in her proposed budget for next year to share with cities.

Palin made no public commitment Wednesday, but league President Kathie Wasserman said she found the governor "very open" to the idea of sharing.

House Minority Leader Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, said she thought the Legislature would go along with the proposal as well, and that revenue sharing was one of the Democratic Party's goals.

"We, as a caucus, are completely supportive of revenue sharing," she said.

Revenue sharing helps keep cities from having to increase property taxes, she said, and helps all citizens.

The league's Jeremy Woodrow agreed.

"Revenue sharing is a great way to lower taxes across the board," he said.

Last year's revenue sharing was used by the City and Borough of Juneau to reduce property tax rates, he said.

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