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My turn: A look back at the Prop 2 vote

Posted: Monday, November 08, 2010

Now that the dust has settled on the vote regarding a second crossing to the North Douglas area it might be appropriate to determine where this project may fit into Juneau's future capital budget plans.

First, however, a few words are in order regarding the vote on the second crossing. The Safe, Affordable, Future, Efficient, or SAFE group, which championed Prop 2 and successfully pushed it onto the local municipal election ballot, probably ran the most effective advocacy campaign on any issue that we have voted on in recent history.

I think SAFE tapped into general dissatisfaction with talking about a project for years, and then studying it for additional years, instead of taking action to move it forward to reality. But the SAFE group's proposal may have been a victim of its own success as my sense is that Juneau voters were not ready to tie up a 1 percent sales tax for 10 years on a project that may have faced substantial environmental and regulatory hurdles. If voters were given more time to analyze this proposal, it may have fared better at the ballot box. But, as the final vote shows, it didn't.

Prop 2 did not pass in any of Juneau's 16 precincts, but despite that fact, the SAFE group can take comfort in the fact that they took an idea and made it a reality in the form of a ballot measure. And that's no small feat.

In deciding how I would vote on Prop 2, there were two major issues that troubled me. The first issue is the sales tax itself. I don't consider myself to be a new age, sensitive guy, but I have serious concerns about using a sales tax to fund major capital projects, or frankly almost any government service. The burden of sales taxes fall disproportionately on low income households, and to me that's just wrong as they are the Juneauites who can least afford this tax, or frankly any form of additional taxation.

In Juneau, about 17 percent of our residents live in households with an annual income of less than $35,000. I, for one, am not ready to chip away at their slim income stream with a 10-year sales tax, now or at any time in the future.

But my biggest concern, and one which I firmly believe this town's leaders must address, is which projects drop out of the City and Borough of Juneau's funding cycle if the North Douglas crossing is funded at a future date. Personally, I'd opt first for developing a funding mechanism to build a combination legislative hall and capitol building and give it to the state. In my view, it's the only way we will ever put the capital move issue to rest and secure Juneau's employment base in the future. State government accounts for roughly 25 percent of all jobs in Juneau and nearly 30 percent of the total wages paid in this town. Put simply, state government is the economic heart of this community.

So as our community leaders ponder what comes next regarding the second crossing issue, or any other major capital project that may be under consideration, I hope that any project that emerges from a substantive, analytic process is weighed against a menu of other projects that will benefit all of the residents of this town.

Juneau's future is too important to do otherwise.

• Reinwand was Gov. Jay Hammond's top aide during his second term and served in the same position for then-Sen. Frank Murkowski in his Washington, D.C. office. He is now a lobbyist and he and his family have property and business interests in Juneau.



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