In today's digital age, people around the world are more connected than ever, but for many Alaskans our legislators in Juneau seem a world away. Legislators try to stay connected with their constituents through newsletters, social media, email, etc., but as every lobbyist knows, these methods do not have the same impact as one-on-one, face-to-face discussions.
With this in mind, I am now in Juneau for the second time as an Assembly member. Traveling on my own dime, with no money from taxpayers, I am personally meeting with legislators to bring a message directly from the people of Chugiak, Eagle River and the Municipality of Anchorage as a whole. A message that has been shared with me not just by my constituents, but by Alaskans across the state: Make meaningful cuts and shrink the size of government before you tax Alaskans or dip into their Permanent Fund dividends.
Anchorage taxpayers are facing an $11.4 million tax increase from the city operating budget alone. That's an increase in property taxes of more than 4.3 percent in 2016, not including the $130 million in bond debt that was authorized in November (of which $79 million was Anchorage School District); this bond debt is outside the tax cap. In addition to these tax increases, there has been renewed talk of a local sales tax.
Anchorage residents are about to be hit with the biggest tax hike they have seen in recent years, all at a time when the economy is predicted to lose 1,600 jobs in 2016. As local property taxes increase, the governor is proposing an income tax, a potential state sales tax, and a plan that could either dramatically decrease, or even eliminate the PFD in the next few years. As taxpayers, all of us in the municipality will be impacted significantly. Increasing taxes on a local level, compounded with taxes on a state level, will send our economy in a tailspin faster than any cuts to an already bloated state budget.
Alaskans have never been afraid of hard work, sacrifices or making tough decisions, but there is a finite amount of money you can take from taxpayers. I represent retirees, single moms and dads, families that are struggling to pay their bills or help put their kids through college, and many who have watched their health care premiums triple in the last year. The decisions Alaska legislators make today will be compounded by decisions made on the federal and local levels. These decisions cannot be made in a vacuum, and all elected officials should be reminded that taxpayers pay all of our bills out of one wallet. Alaskans aren't asking for a free ride, but they are asking elected officials to do the basics of budgeting before you reach deeper into their pockets.
Amy Demboski is an Anchorage Assembly member representing Chugiak, Eagle River and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. She is a graduate of Chugiak High School and University of Alaska Anchorage with degrees in justice and history, and holds a master's degree in business with an emphasis on finance from Columbia Southern University.
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