Recently, I noticed letters in the Empire concerning the lack of financial responsibility by the unorganized areas of the state to pay for education. Personally, I usually refrain from commenting on school issues due to the fact that my wife and I have no children. However, recent discussions concerning education at the federal and state levels, and the public funding debate have forced my participation in this public topic.
Clearly, procreating includes responsibilities like education, which parents should and must address. However, politicians, always ready to bend into the prevailing wind, are advocating a broad and deep base of public funding support. The current twister is Senate Bill 48.
Sen. Gary Wilken wrote Feb. 15 in a letter to the editor that Senate Bill 48 would address the inequality between the organized and unorganized borough contributions to the education support formula. Either Mr. Wilken is playing a political shell game or he is ignorant of the facts. Mr. Wilken, let me educate you; there is no charge for my service.
Mr. Wilken refers to children and the schools as something that belongs to all of us. Children and the schools which they attend are for the benefit of the students and their parents. Society receives benefit if there is a social compact which has been eroded, continues to be eroded, and which we essentially do not have at this time.
The state of Alaska receives monies from the federal government in several forms. PL 874 provides revenue to the states for "lost" taxes from non-taxable federal lands. This revenue is sent directly to the state and promptly deposited in the state treasury. It is subsequently doled out to the REAA districts. Of course, the state takes a little piece of the pie - administrative costs?
Secondly, the state of Alaska receives monies from the powers-that-be in Washington. The federal treasury is able to dole out grants and the like from taxes. Many of these taxes are from personal income tax revenues. If one does not procreate, one is required to pay a higher tax with no deductions. Those of us who have chosen not to have offspring do indeed pay for the education of children of those who procreated, and at a much higher rate than those who have reproduced. After reading Mr. Wilken's enthusiastic support for Senate Bill 48, I researched Mr. Wilken's biography - he has four children. Oh, I see you have your tax deductions and tax decrease - isn't that nice.
In its second paragraph, Senate Bill 48 uses the term "personal responsibility." I "personally" would like to see personal legislative responsibility. Attempting to legislatively dig into the pockets of the "bush" because we do not have the voice is not responsible legislation; it is just tyranny of the majority. Attempting to force borough consolidation is legislative tyranny.
Senate Bill 48 would require forced consolidation into a borough, with no mandated services other than education. In Gustavus, an individual property-homeowner is responsible for water, septic, access to their property (clearing and maintaining the state's rights-of-way) and many other day-to-day difficulties. Is an Icy Strait Borough or the state going to provide these services? The answer is simple - no. We have been and will continue to be on our own.
In Gustavus, we do indeed pay taxes. One may ask how is that done. We tax ourselves with "soft taxes." We wanted a new library. We held bake sales, fund drives, gave money, had brick sales (a brick in the lobby of the library) grants and most anything we could think of. The Gustavus Emergency Response Department is very successful, as well as our landfill, community chest, arts council, pre-school, health clinic and other organizations - all done with volunteer labor. Yes Virginia, we do pay taxes with no help from the state or any borough.
I would suggest to Mr. Wilken and the Legislature that they stop trying to put their hands on the unorganized boroughs' pocket books and offer concrete proposals of services for the taxes, other than education, that they wish to impose.
Thomas Imboden lives with his wife in Gustavus and is the owner of Alaska's TRI Bed and Breakfast of Glacier Bay.