Alaska mayors again plead for Legislature to fix deficit

For the past two years, mayors across Alaska have pleaded for the Alaska Legislature to do something — anything — to solve the state’s multibillion-dollar deficit.

On Wednesday, they started the third year of what is expected to become an increasingly vocal campaign.

“We’re not just going to sit anymore,” said Kathie Wasserman of the Alaska Municipal League and Alaska Conference of Mayors.

“We have tried resolutions, we have tried letters, and I think the mayors are frustrated,” she said.

In a letter signed by Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Karl Kassel (also vice president of the Conference of Mayors), the mayors are asking for some kind of progress in the upcoming special session to be held in Juneau.

On the special session agenda is a payroll tax proposal offered by Gov. Bill Walker. A crime bill is also on the agenda.

By phone, Kassel said the mayors know that if the Legislature doesn’t act, costs will be passed to their cities and boroughs. They, in turn, will pass those costs via property taxes and sales taxes to residents who demand services.

That has already happened in some areas, particularly school debt reimbursement, he said. The state used to pay half the cost of construction and major renovations. Now, it pays nothing.

“The costs of inaction are very significant for local municipal governments and we also want them to be aware that when they are pushing down costs to local municipalities, that isn’t really a cost savings or reduction to taxpayers in the state,” Kassel said.

The mayors are asking for a “three-legged stool” to solve the deficit. That includes budget cuts (which have already happened), spending from the earnings of the Permanent Fund, and revenue generation.

“We understand that revenue generation is a big word for tax, and we understand that’s going to impact our communities,” Kassel said. “However, the three-legged stool, to stand up, needs a little of all three things.”

The mayors are still drafting their campaign to make the message clear, Wasserman said, but the plan to press forward was approved unanimously at the last state meeting.

City and Borough of Juneau Mayor Ken Koelsch didn’t attend the meeting where the mayors agreed upon their strategy, but he has no doubts about it.

“That’s a no-brainer for us,” he said.

Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com.

More in News

Soldotna Montessori Charter School Principal John DeVolld explains Montessori materials in a classroom at Soldotna Montessori Charter School on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Critical needs’: Soldotna Montessori maxes out

The relocation of Soldotna Montessori is included in a bond package on the Oct. 4 municipal election ballot

Engineer Lake Cabin can be seen in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on Nov. 21, 2021. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service announced Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, that $14.4 million of a larger $37 million package will be used to build cabins in the Chugach and Tongass National Forests. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Millions designated for cabins in Tongass, Chugach

$18 million is allocated to the construction and maintenance of cabins and historic buildings — of which $14.4 million is destined for Alaska

Puffin sits by a scratching tower in front of his main pad of buttons on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, in Nikiski, Alaska. Owner Geri Litzen says Puffin can communicate by pressing different buttons on the pad to form sentences. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Puffin with the buttons

Verbose Nikiski cat earns TikTok followers

CCFR officials and residents gathered at the section of Gastineau Avenue that sustained damage from the landslide on on Monday, Sept. 26, in Juneau, Alaska. At the time of 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday officials said they were still trying to assess the damage and no cleanup efforts had started yet. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Juneau set to begin cleanup after landslide

Three homes were damaged; at least a dozen people displaced

Members of the community attend the first part of the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska’s Food Security and Sustainability Series in August 2022. (Photo courtesy Challenger Learning Center of Alaska)
Challenger Learning Center workshop focuses on food sustainability

Gathering, growing and preserving food in the form of plants, fish and other animals will be discussed

Examples of contemporary books that have been banned or challenged in recent years are displayed on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, at the Soldotna Public Library in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna library hosts Banned Book Club

Books have been challenged or banned for their content nationwide.

Nikiski Middle/High School Principal Shane Bostic stands near a track and field long jump sand pit on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, in Nikiski, Alaska. The track is one of several projects in a bond package Kenai Peninsula voters will consider during the Oct. 4 municipal election next month. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Critical needs’: Nikiski athletes await upgrade

Funding for long-delayed school projects on Oct. 4 ballot

Lars Arneson runs to victory and a new event record in the Kenai River Marathon on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
A speech, a smartphone and a bike

Circumstances lead Arneson to Kenai River Marathon record

Trees with fall colors populate the Shqui Tsatnu Creek gully as seen from Fourth Avenue on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai to use $770k in grants to remove hazard trees along Shqui Tsatnu Creek

The money will be used to mitigate hazards caused by dead and dying spruce trees over more than 100 acres of city land

Most Read