Taxation is a fact of life. We hate taxes, but we can't really live without them. We reluctantly but willingly continue to tax ourselves for the common good.
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Ballot Measure 2, the $50 cruise head tax, is possibly a tax on ourselves, the voters. The extra $250 a family might spend on a tax to visit Alaska may cut into spending on local food and drink, products and tours. In this light, we the voters must decide if the tax provides for our common good.
I'm a longtime Juneau resident and involved in the tourism industry. I employee 40 or more young people each tour season, many who help finance their college educations with their summer earnings. If Ballot Measure 2 passes, cruise ship passengers may not be able to spend as much money on adventure tours such as those provided by Gastineau Guiding. Our employees, as well as scores of local businesses and nonprofits, will feel the pinch. Does this provide for our common good?
Local communities that set and manage their own passenger fees will be required to drop these taxes should they opt into the proposed statewide tax. If Ballot Measure 2 passes, these communities will no longer be able to manage tourism-related improvement projects as efficiently, as the flow of money will be more tightly controlled. Does this provide for our common good?
If Ballot Measure 2 passes, my business will be required to disclose our wholesale prices. There will be associated state administrative costs, taken directly out of the tax revenue, to administer this process. Does this provide for our common good?
The Cruise Lines that visit Alaskan waters operate under the highest environmental standards in the world. They are currently doing testing that is more rigorous than many municipal plants. If Ballot Measure 2 passes, a cumbersome and expensive "ocean ranger" program will be initiated. These rangers will be placed on each ship. Testing will not increase beyond current Coast Guard and state of Alaska standards. The rangers will essentially be expensive "paperwork watchdogs". Does this provide for our common good?
If Ballot Measure 2 passes, how much of the revenue will be eroded by high state of Alaska administrative costs? It remains undetermined how much will be available to our communities. Does this provide for our common good?
Finally, if Ballot Measure 2 passes, there are likely to be high costs to the state of Alaska in defending the legality of this cumbersome product. Does this provide for our common good?
In consideration of these issues, I am voting no on Ballot Measure 2.
President, Gastineau Guiding Co.
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