As one of those Alaskans who for the last 65 years felt independent while gleefully taking a free tax ride since we hit oil, well, due to the reckless misuse of our mutual inheritance we have not only run out of gas, we are in danger of running out of road.
I asked a Norwegian friend how the drop in the price of oil was affecting them. His answer was not at all. They never used any oil money in their daily budget. They put all of their oil wealth into their Permanent Fund. Thus when the North Sea oil is depleted they will have converted a non-renewable resource into a renewable investment fund and at that time they use some of the earnings to back up their tax.
Alaska, unlike the other 49 states, is a Land Grant State. At Statehood we received 100 million acres of Alaska’s 365 million acres to select as we saw fit to make it possible for us to govern this vast area. When we received our first big Prudhoe oil bonus we hired the best advisers and then they told us: “Oil by its very nature is but an enclave within the State; to treat as a permanent part of your economy is to court disaster.” We only set aside 25 percent of our royalty and bonus windfall and set off on a spending spree — not all of it wasted, but much of it requiring more maintenance the a reasonable tax base could support.
When the Kenai Peninsula Borough was formed a fair tax base was considered, to not put too heavy a burden on one segment of our population. Sales tax for our schools, a property tax for public safety and things like roads, so we all paid some of the burden. Now I hear the chatter from the Borough Assembly on sales tax. Do I think we should keep the cost of school construction down? Yes. But the basic cost of education benefits all of. At times I shudder at the stupidity of some but ignorance is curable. I for one support year-round sales tax. No exemptions, please, it is often only a way for some to cheat. I am a supporter of our Permanent Fund Dividend for it is but a dividend from your fund and is no different from the AT&T stock that I inherited that pays me a small dividend every quarter. I am a lifelong Republican, but the old party — strong military, balanced budget and stay the heck out of my private life.
Our state gravy train has run out of track all of us are going have to face a number of new choices. A reasonable sales tax is just one. Just think “school,” gulp a bit and pay up.