Nonresidents may stop shopping in Juneau

Letter to the editor

Posted: Friday, May 19, 2006

The nonresident sales tax exemption card for people living outside of Juneau is ending soon. I just took a trip to a couple of the smaller outlying towns, and everyone I spoke to was under the same impression. Juneau would prefer that people from other towns and villages in Southeast Alaska did not come to town to shop. To further press the point that rural residents are not wanted in town is that if you shop by phone and have goods shipped or mailed, it is not taxed!

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The nonresident tax card was started, I believe, as a fair exemption to draw people from other towns and villages to shop in Juneau. What was bought in town and removed was not taxed but such things as rental cars, motels, restaurants - basically any goods or services used in Juneau - were taxed.

I usually go to Juneau twice a year with a long list in my hand and drive from store to store buying what I need. I noticed this year that the list has gotten very short due to the Internet and shipping more from down south. The supermarket we used to use in Juneau stopped their call in service and it did not take long to find out we could get cheaper organic foods by ordering them from Seattle. By shopping with the Internet and having things mailed I have found that I do not burn up gas, stop at a restaurant or pay the Juneau tax.

If I was a big-name store wanting to build in Juneau, I think I would look twice at starting up. The draw for these stores to open in Juneau is the large nonresident population. The ferry service relies on this traveling and shopping in Juneau. Nonresidents felt welcomed to Juneau because of the tax exemption and could justify bringing a car to town, filling it up and getting back on the ferry. Now with rural residents subsidizing Juneau with sales taxes, it hardly seems worth the expense to come to Juneau when shipping and mailing is easier and cheaper.

Perhaps the outlying towns should be thankful that Juneau is teaching us to shop elsewhere and saving us money. Then again if I was a business person in Juneau, I would be rather concerned.

Phil Emerson

Admiralty Island

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