For one Alaskan group, Tuesday’s special election in Soldotna is more than just an issue for the city. Members of Alaskans for Grocery Tax Relief Now believe that Soldotna’s decision on whether to elect a charter commission and potentially become a home rule city is important for residents around Kenai Peninsula.
A grassroots group with members from all over the peninsula, Alaskans for Grocery Tax Relief Now believes that if Soldotna becomes a home rule city, a 3 percent tax on non-prepared foods will continue to be levied during the winter months.
To spread their message, the organization has recently placed several signs around Soldotna prompting voters to vote against home rule. The signs show a pink pig with “Home Rule = More Taxe$” written on it.
A 2008 initiative currently grants the city power to collect a 3 percent food tax on non-prepared food during wintertime. A measure to rescind the tax will be on the October ballot. Should Soldotna vote to become a home rule city, the city could continue to levy the tax.
James Price, co-chair of Alaskans for Grocery Tax Relief Now, said he wants voters to understand what they are voting for.
“I’m afraid if the process isn’t stopped, home rule is going to be shoved down our throats,” Price said.
Despite being a resident of Nikiski, Price thinks no grocery tax is good for more than just Soldotna residents.
“I believe this is good for the entire community,” Price said. “I believe the grocery tax exemption is popular with the people.”
Tara Kain, owner of a natural foods store in Homer and co-chair of Alaskans for Grocery Tax Relief Now, said that she believes having a grocery tax will harm citizens.
Kain said that she has seen people around the peninsula struggle to afford food when taxes have been levied.
“It’s a big concern for me and for our communities,” Kain said. “It does affect those inside the city and outside the city.”
Soldotna City Council member Keith Baxter said that the Alaskans for Grocery Tax Relief signs aren’t accurate as far as home rule is concerned and would not lead to more taxes.
“Our intent is to keep the status quo there,” Baxter said, with regards to the current tax level.
Baxter said that if the grocery tax were eliminated, the city might have to make up the lost revenue in another way. Baxter said that raising property tax could be a way to make up the lost revenue.
“That would be one solution, but that’s exactly what the city doesn’t want,” he said.
Reach Ian Foley at Ian.email@example.com