Anchorage voters will not see an alcohol tax measure on the city ballot in April.
After a three-hour hearing, the Anchorage Assembly voted the proposal down at its meeting Tuesday night. The vote was 6-5 against the measure; eight "yes" votes were required to put the measure on the ballot. Jennifer Johnston, Amy Demboski, Patrick Flynn, Bill Evans, Tim Steele and Bill Starr were the "no" votes.
Concerns over a charter change to questions about how the money would ultimately be spent were among the reasons Assembly members cited for opposing the measure.
Assembly members Dick Traini and Ernie Hall sponsored the measure, which was first introduced in January. At Tuesday's meeting, Hall unveiled a series of amendments, setting the tax rate at 5.5 percent and restricting the tax solely to package stores. Another amendment would have allowed for credits or incentives to defray for vendors the cost of collecting the tax.
In a memo accompanying the amended version, Hall also made a last-minute effort to spell out more details for how the money would be spent, pulling information from the recommendations of Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan's leadership team on homelessness. For example, Hall's memo said, the plan would call for the addition of 80 housing-first units and 12 short-stay detox beds, and included cost estimates for such measures. Such details had not been made publicly available until the meeting.
About two dozen people testified on the proposal at Tuesday night's meeting, a number of whom were members of the liquor industry. Some of those opposing the tax wore red.
"The problem is not just Anchorage," said Joel Kadarauch of the Odom Corp. "The solution is not just money."
The liquor industry was already positioning itself to launch a fierce campaign. Members of the Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association created a political group last week to oppose the tax should it appear on the April ballot.
Both Hall and Traini said after the meeting that they were disappointed by the vote but not surprised.
"I'm disappointed people won't get a chance to discuss and vote on it," Hall said. "But maybe next year."
Alaska Dispatch Publishing