Clock running out on new state taxes

Gambling bill faces tough opposition

Posted: Tuesday, May 06, 2003

House Speaker Pete Kott says the Legislature might run out of time this session before instituting a statewide sales tax. He also said plans for a lottery and electronic gambling machines almost certainly are dead.

"With 17 days left in the session it may be a difficult task," the Eagle River Republican said Monday. The last day of this year's legislative session is May 21.

Legislative leaders last week proposed passing a 3 percent statewide sales tax to help fill Alaska's gap between revenues and spending. But the tax, expected to raise up to $330 million annually, has met strong opposition and must make it through the House Ways and Means Committee and Finance Committee before heading to the full House for a vote.

And there is no Senate version of the bill, Kott said, noting Senate President Gene Therriault, a North Pole Republican, has said the Senate might introduce a sales tax bill sometime this week.

Bills proposing a lottery and electronic gambling also face serious opposition, Kott said.

"With the time available and some of the other major issues on the table, I just believe that the gaming issue will be one of those we set aside until next year," said Kott.

He said moral opposition to the gambling bill and concerns about how it would affect tribal relations, gaming charities and pull-tab businesses have prompted the Legislature to decide to spend more time during the interim working on the proposal.

Other proposals from the House such as Anchorage Republican Rep. Norm Rokeberg's plan to divert money headed to the Alaska Permanent Fund to the state general fund, which is used to pay for government services, has stalled in the Senate.

The proposal would take about 25 percent of mineral lease royalties and other proceeds that are deposited into the permanent fund, raising about $43 million a year for state government.

Rokeberg said House Bill 11 would reduce dividend checks by approximately $1 in 2005 and by about $20 by 2012, but some have called it a raid on the fund.

"If we can't pass HB 11, we can't do much of anything else," he said. "Even many of the governor's revenue-enhancing measures, I think, are more difficult politically than even HB 11."

House Bill 11 was approved in the House in mid-April and awaits a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee.

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