This is going to be an absolutely insane year, politically, and Alaska could have a very different face next year.
In coming months, we are going to suffer through a critical, zillion-dollar U.S. Senate race -- which at its core is about Barack Obama -- and another for Alaska's lone and long-locked-up congressional seat. There is a race for governor and lieutenant governor (Is it true there is a new Sobriety Party candidate?) and a slew of House and Senate candidates who will have to kill puppies to pique media attention.
Then, there are the August primary ballot questions that could jolt Alaska to its core. Alaskans will be asked in Ballot Measure 1 whether to return to Alaska's Clear and Equitable Share oil tax or keep long overdue legislative reform aimed at spurring North Slope investment and oil production.
We also will be asked to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana. A third measure would increase the minimum wage, and a fourth could shut down mining in the Bristol Bay area forever.
Alaska will survive any politician, but when it comes to the ballot measures, things get scary. Suppose they pass? Suppose voters return to ACES, legalize dope, increase the minimum wage and set up a system that slams the door on mining in the Bristol Bay watershed? What does Alaska look like after that? Call me Mr. Sunshine, but the outlook is stinko.
Ballot Measure 1 is the biggie. It has been hashed out by both sides in excruciating detail. Those who want a return to ACES -- oil-hating, grab-all-you-can-now Democrats -- are dead wrong or playing fast and loose with the truth.
If they succeed, there will be less state revenue in the long run and less oil production -- and all of that will flush through the economy like a tsunami. If state spending is not curtailed drastically and more money socked away, Alaska will blow through its ample savings in a decade, give or take.
Those of us still living here then can count on an income tax, a sales tax, a surtax on all that, and, because of the rapacious nature of the government beast, it will not be enough. Permanent Fund dividends will go. Local property taxes will skyrocket because the state will discontinue payments for local retirement fund deficits and municipal revenue-sharing and school bond packages.
Fiscally, Alaska will be hamburger. But, hey, we will have ganja -- and more bureaucrats to tend to the boxcar-load of regulations and taxes in our brave, new world of government-approved dope.
If Alaska is like Washington and Colorado, the first states to regulate and allow a marijuana industry, there are going to be more problems than anybody imagined -- things like coming up with our own product-safety requirements because the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate pot.
There will be increased health problems and crime and a booming black market to dodge pesky state taxes and rules. Price increases triggered by skyrocketing recreational demand will threaten medical pot users' access. It will be hard to determine who is growing what and whether taxes are paid. Then, there will be stoned drivers and co-workers, and smuggling and clashes with the feds.
The good news? People who are working in the new dope industry will be getting paid a higher minimum wage starting in 2015. For the rest of Alaska, a higher minimum wage -- Obama's pushing it now federally, after five years in office, to distract us from Obamacare -- will mean reduced opportunities for new workers, those who most need opportunity and experience. People starting their work careers in entry-level jobs earn more after they accumulate experience and become valuable.
Employers forced to pay an artificial minimum wage must make hard decisions about who to pay and who to keep. Unfortunately, economists tell us, the young and minorities pay for our feel-good largesse.
But if Alaskans approve Proposition 1, there likely will be fewer jobs anyway. If dope is legalized we will not care. If we slam the door on mining in Bristol Bay, too -- a huge "closed for business" sign -- those of us still here for the next election might consider changing the state's motto.
Instead of "North to the Future" how about, "Don't worry, be happy"?
Paul Jenkins is an editor of the AnchorageDailyPlanet.com, a division of Porcaro Communications, which is performing services for the "Vote No on 1" anti-repeal effort.
commentBy PAUL JENKINS