Commercial fisheries have been part of Alaska’s spending burden since North Slope oil took the tax harness, about 40 years ago. According to the Jan. 5 Clarion: “A study … found that the state spends about $27.2 million more (annually) on commercial fishing than it receives in revenue from the industry. Local governments make out considerably better — they take in about 40 percent of the (tax) revenue from the commercial fishing industry …”
I’m embarrassed! At one time, back when everybody hated fish traps, about 75 percent of the Territorial taxes came from salmon. Today, Alaska has numerous fisheries in addition to salmon. Each is a natural resource owned by the people, same as oil. Shouldn’t all resource extractors pay a royalty tax?
Governor Walker has proposed a 1 percent commercial fishing surtax, which would raise an estimated $20 million. That isn’t even enough to cover the $27 million shortfall that exists in management. Fisheries need to help carry the tax burden for education, roads, etc. Guides should be included in the royalty tax because they, too, use people-owned resources.
I’m not suggesting that oil is over-taxed, nor that efficiencies can’t be adapted into budgets. Some com-fish budget cuts will lead to restrictive management, which will cost com-fishers more than paying their share of state taxes. It’s time for commercial fisheries to get off the sled and pull a little.