Assemblyman wants 4 percent sales tax on ballot

Anchorage Assembly member Bill Evans wants voters to authorize a 4 percent sales tax on a broad range of city goods and services, with the aim of lowering property taxes, he said.

Evans introduced the ordinance at the Assembly meeting Tuesday night. He first promised a sales-tax ballot measure last year and has spent months crafting it with a group of advisers he calls his "brain trust."

"We've heard the constant drumbeat for years about people complaining about the level of property taxes," Evans, who represents South Anchorage, said in an interview. "And I think this is probably the best mechanism, maybe the only mechanism, to make any kind of substantial reductions in property taxes."

He also said Anchorage should have a sales tax in place in case the Alaska Legislature decides to impose one statewide.

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Anchorage voters have rejected a sales tax four times in the past, most recently in 2006 by a 70-30 percent split.

As was the case in 2006, Evans' ordinance chiefly seeks to offset property taxes with revenue from the sales tax. The sales tax revenue would fall within the city's tax cap — its total limit on taxes — which Evans said would allow the city to collect less in property tax.

Evans' measure also would increase the size of the city's tax exemption for residential properties from $20,000 to $40,000 to more broadly spread the benefits of the offset in taxes, he said.

To reduce the impact of the sales tax on low-income residents, a number of basic goods and services will be exempt, including prescription medicine, medical or counseling services, child care, education, legal and utility services, residential heating fuels and telephone, internet and cable services.

Charitable organizations and private or parochial schools would also be exempt from the tax in most cases, according to the ordinance.

Regardless of how voters react to the sales tax, Evans won't have to face them again. He finishes his first term in April and said he has decided not to run for re-election.

A public hearing on the measure has been set for Dec. 20. If approved by the Assembly, the sales tax would appear on the city's April ballot.

Devin Kelly

Devin Kelly was an ADN staff reporter.