Posted: Tuesday, February 27, 2001

Sales tax appellants must pay taxes first

JUNEAU - If the city finds someone liable for collecting its sales tax and remitting it to its coffers, that person now must pay up before he or she can appeal that decision.

The Juneau Assembly passed the ordinance making the change at its Monday night meeting in response to the substantial amounts of money left owed after lengthy administrative proceedings notably against three pull-tab operators recently found liable after repeated appeals of the city's judgments.

The operations - Last Chance Co-op, Multiple Charities Association Co-op and Alaska Native Brotherhood Camp 2 - owed the city a total of $900,000 in back taxes, interest and penalties.

Merchants objecting to collecting and remitting the tax can get an interpretation of the code from the city sales tax administrator. If they disagree with the administrator's judgment, they may then appeal to the sales tax board of appeals.

But to appeal that board's decision to the assembly, a merchant now must first put up the money owed, Deputy Mayor John MacKinnon said.

MacKinnon said there's an advantage to paying before the appeal. "If (Last Chance Co-op administrator) George Wright had paid the money before his appeal, he would have saved himself a couple of hundred thousand dollars in interest and penalties," he said.

Senior tax exemption change proposed

JUNEAU - Senior citizens wouldn't have to file for a property tax exemption every year under a bill that passed the House on Monday.

Rep. Jim Whitaker, a Fairbanks Republican, introduced the measure after an elderly woman in his district lost her home because she didn't realize she needed to file for the exemption annually. After word of her plight spread, a local man stepped in and paid her taxes.

The local government had no authority to give her a break because under state law the exemption has to be applied for every year, Whitaker said. State law requires local governments to give senior citizens and disabled veterans the exemption on the first $150,000 of their home's value. Whitaker's bill would leave the decision on how often citizens have to file for the tax break up to the local government.

Minority Democrats tried to amend the bill to include a statement that the Legislature intends to fully reimburse municipalities for the cost of the exemption, since state law requires the state to provide it. The state once provided the funds, but hasn't for years.

"This is just an effort to say it's time we step back up to the plate and fund these exemptions," said Rep. Beth Kerttula, a Juneau Democrat.

The amendment failed 25-10. The bill itself passed 35-0. It now goes to the Senate.

Senate approves ANWR resolution

JUNEAU - The state Senate passed a resolution Monday urging Congress and President Bush to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration and development.

Similar nonbinding resolutions have passed in recent years. Alaska politicians hope Bush's election, a Republican-controlled Congress and tight energy supplies in the Lower 48 will overcome environmentalists' opposition to drilling in the refuge.

The resolution sponsored by Rep. Bev Masek, a Willow Republican, passed 18-2 with Democrats Kim Elton of Juneau and Georgianna Lincoln of Rampart voting no.

Bill lets boroughs spend funds on tourism marketing

JUNEAU - A bill letting boroughs spend hotel room taxes on tourism marketing passed the state House on Monday.

State Rep. Jim Whitaker, a Fairbanks Republican, said in places such as Fairbanks where a first-class city exists within a second-class borough, current state law doesn't let the borough contribute bed tax money to tourism marketing.

House Bill 24 would apply to about 11 boroughs. "It's allowing local governments to make a determination on how their local taxes should be spent," Whitaker said.

The House approved the measure 35-0. It next goes to the Senate.

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