Tax cap organizers: Scare tactics have quieted backers

Polls show almost 60 percent of voters oppose ballot initiative

Posted: Friday, October 27, 2000

Tax cap supporters say their opponents are the same people who wanted to use Alaska Permanent Fund earnings for government operations.

In both cases, the establishment elected officials, big business, the media and various organizations with a stake in the public sector has pushed for government, rather than individuals, to decide how money should be spent, according to Uwe Kalenka and Jim Crawford of Anchorage, leaders of Tax Cap Yes!

But so far, it doesn't appear that Kalenka and Crawford are mobilizing the large bloc of voters who repudiated last year's plan to use some permanent fund earnings to plug the state budget gap.

A poll conducted by Dittman Research of Anchorage finds the property-tax proposal failing in every region of the state, with 59 percent against and only 29 percent in favor. Twelve percent were undecided.

Kalenka and Crawford, in a rare Juneau appearance by tax cap leaders, said in an interview Thursday that scare tactics have quieted many supporters, with some probably lying to pollsters.

"The rationale that's been built up is, if you're for the tax cap, you're not civic-minded, you're not socially acceptable," Crawford said. "The tax cap is everybody's scapegoat today."

The proposal would set a 10-mill limit on property taxes, equal to 1 percent of assessed value. Assessments would be limited to 2 percent annual increases until property is sold.

Kalenka and Crawford object to property assessments increasing because of sales or new construction nearby. In one case in Fairbanks, an owner of a vacant lot saw his taxes increase from $1,500 to $12,000 in one year because a hotel was built nearby, they said.

They reject the argument that assessments reflect increased worth of the property. "A piece of property is only worth something on the day you sell it. Anything else is hypothetical," Kalenka said. "We are not in a socialistic, communistic world."

By eliminating $150 million in property taxes statewide, the tax cap will move that money into the private sector, resulting in new economic activity, more jobs, higher paychecks and more affordable housing, he said.

But opposition could hardly be more widespread.

Organizations representing local elected officials, non-profit organizations, Native corporations, professional trade associations, chambers of commerce and education groups have rallied against the tax cap.

Crawford and Kalenka also blame the Anchorage Daily News for a constant stream of articles and editorials highlighting dire warnings about the effects of the tax cap.

"It's a David and Goliath campaign," Crawford said.

He said the absurdity of the no campaign was illustrated recently when the 11-year-old son of Eddie Burke, press secretary for Tax Cap Yes!, came home and told his father that he opposed the tax cap because school officials said it would mean the end of recess.

But Ernie Hall, chairman of Alaskans United Against the Cap, said proponents have provided little documentation for their assumptions, including how they decided on a 10-mill tax limit.

Crawford said the language of 1978's Proposition 13 in California was chosen for his campaign because it survived all subsequent court challenges. The Alaska tax cap is sure to go to court if it passes, he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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