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Alaska shouldn't shut down over an unnecessary income tax

  • Author: Rep. Lance Pruitt
    | Opinion
  • Updated: May 30, 2017
  • Published May 30, 2017

The House Chamber at the Alaska State Capitol in December 2014 (Loren Holmes / ADN)

On Thursday, state employees will be dealt the same blow as many of our state's educators and workers across the private sector this year: a pink slip. Since 2015, the private sector in Alaska has lost over 12,000 jobs. Along with the employment instability and stress being felt by those whom we rely on to provide for education, industry and state services, our state's public health and safety is now being put in jeopardy. All to leverage taxes.

That's the unfortunate reality here in the Capitol – to see negotiations begin and a budget passed, the House's Democrat-led majority is requiring that action be taken to pass an income tax. Leveraging one policy for another is no new trick in politics, but when the action being stalled is passing a budget to provide for essential services, something has to give.

We have heard from a diverse group of Alaskans from across the state, all sharing thoughts on income tax proposals before the Legislature and the policy in general. Alaskans have told us time and time again we must get government spending in order before we ask to tax working Alaskans. Done right, we shouldn't need to overburden Alaskans with the multiple taxes proposed by Gov. Walker and his House Democrat-led majority. It is time the Legislature refocus its attention on its constitutional obligation to pass a budget.

There are some whose message has been, "Without an income tax, we can't afford essential services." This has repeatedly been proven untrue. Revenue-stabilizing bills have been offered by members of the House and Senate, and vouched for by experts, that don't rely on an income tax. There are tools at the state's disposal to get our budget under control and create a sustainable spending plan that does not need an income tax to succeed.

There are many of us who stand ready to help find compromise and move Alaska forward – but those who drive the agenda are digging in their heels and refusing to hold meetings. We're going to need the help of those affected, which in this case is all Alaskans, to push the House majority to schedule a conference committee on the budget and avoid an unnecessary and harmful government shutdown.

We don't need an income tax – we need troopers to patrol our highways, Pioneer Homes to provide care for our vulnerable seniors, Fish and Game employees to ensure that our fishing resource is available for all Alaskans. These are all services at risk because of the political game being played. I'm not willing to trade these services for an income tax.

We need a budget passed, and soon.

Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, is a lifelong Alaskan who has served in the state House of Representatives since 2011.

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary@alaskadispatch.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@alaskadispatch.com. 

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