Statewide sales tax will widen rural-urban divide

Posted: Tuesday, May 13, 2003

A few years ago when they were pinching funding for Bush schools and opposing a state subsistence priority for rural Alaskans, urban Republican legislators scoffed at the notion of a growing "rural-urban divide."

The "divide" was mostly the feeling of rural Alaskans that urban state lawmakers who dominate the Legislature were willing to sacrifice rural Alaska in order to cover their political behinds.

Now, two urban Republican legislators, representing the only two major Alaska cities without a sales tax (Anchorage and Fairbanks), are seeking a statewide sales tax that would push existing sales taxes in rural towns sky high. High sales taxes would hit rural businesses hard, and draw more rural residents away to shop the Internet or big-box stores in urban Alaska.

Urban Republican legislators won't even consider an income tax, although any rural Alaskan can tell you an income tax is the surest way to tax the wealth that comes from their towns - and often leaves immediately in the pockets of part-time Alaskans. Seasonal and non-resident oilfield workers, commercial fishermen, fishing guides, tour operators, miners and others skim the cream from the Alaska economy and pay little or nothing in return.

If Gov. Murkowski and the urban Republican legislators who support his agenda truly want to encourage natural resource development, they'll support an income tax as a responsible means of returning a portion of natural resource revenues to its source - the state of Alaska.

A statewide sales tax is a political dodge that will only widen the rural-urban divide.

Tom Morphet


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