Sales tax will help schools

Posted: Tuesday, May 13, 2003

The push for the statewide sales tax is growing hotter. Gov. Murkowski is touting the 2 to 4 percent tax. The House is looking to pass something, if they can. Unfortunately, it looks suspiciously for show. The session is over very soon, and the tax wasn't even discussed until late. One Republican talked before the session about past efforts to introduce unpassable legislation, in order to show the "pain" to the Alaskan voters, to increase awareness. It's politics.

If people from Juneau should talk of "punishing the poor," it would be hypocritical. Juneau has regressive taxes to the bone, which is pretty much the only choice for a municipal government, with property and sales tax. The question is, what is the role of municipal government in Alaska? With unfunded mandates and deficits coming from both federal and state government, much of the pain falls to the local government. This is why local government must be active in state politics.

People speak of rural people paying higher rates for sales tax, with higher costs for essential living items, like milk and toilet paper. This is an excellent argument. I believe it is essential, though, to not act as if we are saviors for the "less fortunate" in rural villages. Many of the rural stores sell plainly too much alcohol and sugar.

Meanwhile, there is outstanding subsistence harvest, and a flourishing culture. When I go to villages, and see dances, and hear Native language, I think about healing through the pain of alcoholism and assimilation, and I wonder exactly which culture is depraved? Funding, grants, money, oil jobs all come and go, but if an ancient culture can still survive and thrive through it all, they should be saving us, not us them. If my people can get past the cycle of victimhood (which liberal politics often encourages), and dependence, and remember our strengths, we will be on a path to success, healing and power.

A sales tax satisfies Gov. Murkowski's urge to not "punish success", and helps to close the budget gap without exhausting the Constitutional Budget Reserve, or mining our cherished Permanent Fund. A sales tax will help education, and I don't mind being more poor for Alaska's children.

Ishmael C. Hope


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