I was pleased that the House Finance Committee held hearings to solicit input and guidance from the citizens of Alaska. It was equally satisfying to witness the huge public response. The committee members are to be commended for their patience and stamina for persisting through the many hours required to conduct the hearings.
I managed to view much of the hearings over the statewide broadcast on public television. There was a significant majority consensus on a number of very important issues. I did not take pencil to paper during the telecast but the following list should capture the overwhelmingly popular positions.
1. There was a recognition of the need to address the projected budget deficit and a willingness of the public to contribute to the solution.
2. A solution based on the primary principle of sales taxation was seen as regressive; placing an extra burden on the less financially favored and a double burden on rural and small communities dependent on sales taxes to support local services.
3. An income tax was favored as the mechanism for raising funds to meet the deficit by sharing the burden with out of state residents working in Alaska and avoiding the placement of an uneven burden on people with lower incomes and the unemployed.
4. The earnings of the permanent fund were seen as contributing but not as the primary means to raise the needed funding.
5. A number of residents expressed a concern about the size of the budget but that was balanced by those concerned about preserving necessary and important services, especially to children and the needy.
6. Alcohol taxes, tourism taxes, and other special interest taxes received greater support as a contributing factor to meeting our deficit then did the contingent objecting to these being considered as sources of revenue.
I'm sure I missed a number of concerns expressed by the citizens of Alaska but I believe these were the major ones addressed. I have been following the post-hearing positions taken by our legislative majority as they continue to deliberate our proposed budget deficit. Unfortunately the public hearings seem to have had as much value as it does to run to the toilet after wetting your pants.
There is still time for our elected legislative membership to use the public input to influence their deliberations on our projected budget deficit. I hope our citizens follow this issue carefully and speak up on the actions or inactions of their elected representatives to the Legislature. This can be easily done through available communication (telephone, letters, fax, e-mail) or through your votes at the next election.