OPINION: Give us ideas to help make Anchorage a better place to live

It is time to invest in Anchorage to make it the place we want it to be. Last summer, Anchorage residents and members of the business community formed a working group to develop a proposal for a 3% sales tax dedicated to reducing property taxes, capturing visitor spending, and building resident-driven infrastructure projects to improve quality of life in our city.

This summer, we are inviting all Anchorage residents to tell us what kind of projects you want to see us build together. Throughout the summer and early fall of this year, we encourage everyone from Eagle River to Girdwood, and everywhere in between, to visit our site www.ProjectAnchorage.com, learn more about Project Anchorage, and submit ideas for projects to make Anchorage a better place to live, work and play.

Here is our proposal: a temporary, year-round 3% sales tax dedicated to reducing property taxes and funding construction of a select list of resident-generated and voter-approved infrastructure projects without borrowing or bonding. To do this, we recommend directing two-thirds of revenue from the sales tax to dollar-for-dollar property tax relief, cutting the average homeowner’s annual property tax bill by about 20%. The other one-third of the revenue would be saved up until, project by project, enough funding is available to complete each quality-of-life investment directed by voters.

A common argument against sales taxes is that they may be considered regressive, burdening some households more than others. That is why our proposal will exempt basic necessities. An extensive list of items would not be taxed, including rent payments, child care, most groceries, gasoline, medical expenses, and more. In fact, a significant benefit of this proposal is that more than 21% of revenue for Project Anchorage will come from people who do not live in Anchorage — visitors and commuters.

We know that Anchorage can do better when it comes to attracting and retaining the best workforce, making homeownership more affordable, and building a place where our kids and grandkids want to stay and grow. In addition to a shortage of housing, Anchorage faces a major problem with housing affordability. One way we can make home ownership more accessible is by lessening the property tax burden homebuyers face, and we believe this is a great opportunity to combine this relief with a once-in-a-generation investment in Anchorage for all residents and visitors.

We know you’ll have lots of questions, and we want this to be a community conversation about how we do better as a community and reinvent ourselves as a destination to live, work and play. We encourage you to visit our website, www.ProjectAnchorage.com to learn more and share your project ideas. By the time snow flies, we hope to be able to share a strong, resident-informed proposal with policymakers so we can all have a chance to vote on this proposal next spring.

This commentary was jointly authored by members of the coalition supporting Project Anchorage: Julie Saupe (Visit Anchorage), Joe Gelione (Northrim Bank), Ryan Strong (Eagle River resident), Kathleen McArdle (Anchorage Chamber of Commerce), Laile Fairbairn (Locally Grown Restaurants), Jenna Wright (Anchorage Economic Development Corp.), Jacob Lyon (Visit Anchorage board member), Brendyn Shiflea (Chugiak Eagle River Chamber of Commerce), Walter Featherly (Calista Corp.), Mike Robbins (Anchorage Community Development Association), Radhika Krishna (Anchorage Downtown Partnership), Michelle Klouda (RIM Architects), Ethan Tyler (Girdwood resident), Dave Cavitt (Sadler’s Home Furnishings) and Carol Gore (Anchorage Economic Development Corp.).

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.