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Alaskans fell for the notion that we don't have to plan or pay

  • Author: Clem Tillion
  • Updated: June 29, 2016
  • Published April 24, 2015

As the Legislature dodges the bullet and heads home, I can only think how much harder it will be next year. Using up our budget reserve and other slush funds, while praying for another boom, will not get us out of this hole.

This Legislature did not cause the problem. That decision was made when we started spending our fortune and removed our state income tax from the books.

As this Legislature will soon discover, we can cripple our entire state government and not balance the budget. Yes, if we were to fire all state employees, we would still lack $1 billion a year because of the unwise generosity of allowing Alaskans to be virtually tax-free.

Like the Norwegians, we should have put all of our oil lease and royalty money in a Permanent Fund, instead of just 25 percent. And if, again like the Norwegians, if we had continued to pay state income taxes, we would be looking at a very bright future indeed.

Their petroleum fund currently totals well over $1 trillion, and they plan to continue their approach until it reaches $3 trillion, which will coincide with their North Sea oil fields running dry.

We can compare ourselves to a family that has accrued credit card debt so deep that selling all their assets will not dig them out.

And it's not just state income tax. How much of our highway maintenance costs are covered by our motor fuel tax?

Does the commercial fishing industry pay enough? The $54.2 million business and landing tax, that once covered the expenses of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, is now shared with 65 communities and is not sufficient for Fish and Game to stay healthy.

How much does the state get from the mining industry?

Does the tourist industry, which I am involved in, contribute enough to the state general fund to even cover the cost of campgrounds and roadside pullouts, not to mention police?

Yes, it was nice to have a single industry, oil, that paid 90 percent while the rest of us had a free ride, but we all knew it had to end someday, while those in elective office just hoped it wouldn't happen on their watch.

Here in Halibut Cove, the tax that burns is the local property tax. I worked all of my life, or at least 66 years of it, to build this community, only to find each time I fix, paint or build something new or improved, the borough wants more.

But, then again, as the saying went in the old Roman Empire: As you enter this world on the day of your birth, only two things are absolute: death and taxes.

Clem Tillion is a former member of the Alaska Legislature and fisherman. He lives in Halibut Cove.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com

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