Local taxes are a local issue

Letters to the editor

Posted: Tuesday, October 17, 2000

In a couple of weeks, Alaskan voters will decide the fate of the proposed property tax cap initiative (Prop 4). In my view, it is an ill-conceived, dangerous proposal. A snap decision in the voting booth could seriously affect every Alaskan's quality of life for decades to come.

Capping our taxes appeals to the greedy side of our personalities. However, most of us are able to suppress our greedy side. We share our hard-earned money with others we care about like our children, families, friends, church, charities and neighbors.

I was raised to believe that freedom is tied to responsibility. We have the freedom to make our own choices and live with the consequences. We have the responsibility to think our decisions through before we make them.

Call it impertinence. Call it a problem with authority. Call it what you will, but I don't like other people telling us what to do. When it comes to government, I strongly believe in making these decisions at home in Juneau. I'm as uncomfortable with people in Anchorage, the Mat-Su and Fairbanks making funding decisions for the City and Borough of Juneau as I am disturbed by the thought of Connecticut suburbanites making these decisions for us.

I've heard tax cap proponents give examples of how they felt their municipal government, Anchorage, could be run better. They felt that Anchorage relies too heavily on the property tax and should diversify its tax scheme to include sales taxes. Well that may be, I don't know. I don't live there. It sounds like a local problem to me.

What I do know is that Juneau has a voter-approved 12-mill property-tax cap. I also know that Juneau, like most other cities and boroughs in Alaska, uses a wide variety of taxes to spread the burden more evenly across all the users of our roads, schools, hospital, fire departments and other essential local services. I know I like living in Juneau. I love this town.

If I thought that more needed to be done, like building a new high school, I certainly wouldn't believe it could be done with LESS money. Prop 4 would limit Juneau residents' ability to build a new school without carving out money already being spent for plowing roads, putting gas in police cars, keeping the library lights on, or providing other CBJ services. Or we could raise our sales taxes, I suppose. After all, these services cost money. But then, I think we understand that. Juneau voters just extended our sales taxes for another couple of years to improve local schools, our hospital, and possibly build an ice rink.

If we feel like we need to spend less or change our taxing policy, then let's work on our assembly to convince them to change it. But for goodness sake, we certainly shouldn't be trying to tell Klawock or Kotzebue or the Kenai Peninsula Borough how they should do it in their towns.

One size doesn't fit all in local government.

Kevin Smith


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