It's been a while since I've felt compelled to write a letter but, after the university land grab bill and the Anchorage newspapers' reaction to a new capitol in Juneau, the $50 cruise passenger tax finally burns me enough to say a few things.
This proposed tax on cruise passengers is another example of hogs at the trough. The biggest pigs get their fill and then tip the trough over so no one else can have any. Where were the Anchorage newspapers when the Anchorage convention center, the downtown paving projects, and the miles of hiking trails were being built with state general fund money? The state has continually underfunded K-12 school funding while on the other hand increased funding for the University of Alaska. Now with little input from affected communities, we are expected to support giving the university thousands of acres of state property. The way we're headed we'll end up with the university full of students from everywhere but Alaska because of the lack of commitment to prepare our children for college.
The proposed $50 passenger head tax is a slap in the face to our visitors and the communities that serve them. The Legislature refuses to address the long-term solution to our financial shortfall with an income tax, choosing instead to have selected "targets" pay for capital projects in areas not in any way impacted by the cruise industry. Had Mr. Gatto checked around he might have discovered that in Skagway the industry has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to projects in Skagway, and I'm sure in other communities as well. He also would have discovered that from 1998 to today the state has not contributed a single dollar toward capital projects in Skagway, which included a $3 million street paving project, a pedestrian bridge across the Skagway River, flood control and repair, and extensive repairs to the state-owned boat harbor. We were able to do some of these projects, because unlike some communities, we have a 4 percent sales tax and a market that is welcome to come here and not get beat up.
During that period of time, general fund money was being spent in Anchorage and Fairbanks. No one was telling them, "If you want it, pay for it yourselves."
We have run off the mining, timber, and some of the fishing industry and now we have some nutcases who think the cruise industry should pay the states obligations. It's time we start paying our own bills without targeting select groups to do so.