My Turn: It's time for legislators to accept revenue sharing

Local officials, Gov. Palin are on board, why not the Legislature?

Posted: Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Alaska Legislature has decided to increase the financial burden on Alaska's communities. This next fiscal year, when our communities reach into their back pockets and find an empty wallet, you can thank our Legislature for cutting the $48 million in community revenue sharing from the governor's operating budget.

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That's $48 million that your elected assemblies, councils and mayors have repeatedly asked the Legislature to leave in the budget.

That's $48 million that municipalities will be forced to muster from Alaska taxpayers.

That's $48 million from which you and I will feel the burden, while our state refuses to share the wealth that belongs to its citizens.

Did you know?

In 2003, Alaska ranked 49th among U.S. states in municipal revenue sharing (according to the percentage of total expenditures allocated to revenue sharing). At the current rate, Alaska will rank dead last as every state in the union continues to contribute revenue to local governments. And it will remain this way as long as the Legislature continues to increase its budget while forcing communities to tighten theirs.

Who benefits from municipal revenue sharing?

You do. It's a simple fact that when municipalities receive revenue sharing, the need for operating costs decrease across every community in the state. Larger communities have in the past and pledge to continue to lower taxes with the aid from revenue sharing, while smaller communities, where the tax base is less, use the necessary funds to provide the most basic services many of us take for granted.

Will cutting $48 million reduce the state budget?

These facts are no secret to members of the Legislature. They have heard all this before. They just didn't want you to know, too. Instead of allowing communities to provide these necessities, the money will be spent elsewhere.

More often than not, these funds will come by way of capital projects. While capital projects are much appreciated (fire trucks, community buildings, new roads and bridges), they all come at a price (maintenance, insurance, upkeep, fuel and personnel). This is where communities come up short with the cash to pay for these requirements. It's like saying let's buy a car and hope the auto manufacturer will pay for the gas. It just doesn't happen.

Without community revenue sharing, you and I will be forced to share the burden. Gov. Sarah Palin made revenue sharing a priority during her campaign, and your local elected officials have unanimously agreed that revenue sharing is their priority. It's time for the Legislature to agree.

• Kathie Wasserman is the executive director of the Alaska Municipal League.

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