House panel to review 10 tax measures

Sales and personal income taxes among items to be considered

Posted: Sunday, February 27, 2005

After four weeks in the making, an omnibus tax package spearheaded by Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch will be split into separate pieces.

The tax package, roughly the size of a Juneau phone book, includes 10 taxes.

Weyhrauch, R-Juneau and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said Friday he decided not to file a bill on the entire package.

"It might fall on its own weight," he said.

The proposed taxes would be levied on cruise ships, mining, timber, fish, sales, personal income, oil and gas severance, wildlife conservation, education and fish and game fees.

Weyhrauch and fellow committee members agreed Friday to hold individual hearings on each tax measure, beginning this week.

Weyhrauch said he will cherry-pick the tax measures that pass muster with Ways and Means Committee members, and will not introduce a bill until after the committee debates all of them.

The tax package is one of three proposals in the Legislature to try to create a fiscal plan for the state.

The other measures, House Bill 143 and Senate Bill 88, would fill future state budget shortfalls by taking half the money needed from the Alaska Permanent Fund's earnings reserve account and the other half from the state's Constitutional Budget Reserve.

Weyhrauch said he is convinced that "we'd still be in trouble" if funding for a budget shortfall was taken solely from the state's bank accounts. "I'm not going to sit here anymore and not do something about it," he said.

Oil prices are expected to fall over the next few years and new oil and gas projects that could replenish the state budget are not expected to come on line for about 10 years.

But Senate Bill 88 sponsor Gary Wilken, R-Fairbanks, said he doesn't think more taxation will be acceptable to Alaskans.

"It's a four-letter word," he said.

If oil and gas projects are delayed, Wilken said the state will have more of a burden on its fiscal gap. But he thinks the state shouldn't take up taxes yet.

"I think we have built a very solid foundation that we can use our assets long before burdening Alaskan families with taxes," he said.

• Elizabeth Bluemink can be reached at elizabeth.bluemink@juneauempire.com.



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