Alaska Legislature

At hearing, Anchorage residents call on lawmakers for an income tax in wake of Dunleavy budget cuts

Anchorage residents piled into a crowded room for the second time on Saturday to urge their legislators to reject Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed budget, many of them offering a personal income tax as an alternative.

Dunleavy’s proposal, which would fill a $1.6 billion budget deficit by making deep cuts to public programs and services, has drawn opposition from public education supporters, health care professionals and advocates for state services.

“There are practical limits to how much can be spent, how much can be taxed, and in the current crisis — and it is a crisis — how much can be cut without severely damaging public institutions, victimizing families and individuals and wounding our local communities,” said Robert Green, an economics teacher at West High School.

Dunleavy’s budget has to be approved by the state Legislature before it becomes law, and lawmakers in both houses have already indicated they are moving away from the proposal and toward a budget that includes less drastic cuts.

Multiple constituents at Saturday’s town hall, though, told the bipartisan group of at least 16 lawmakers (with others listening in by phone) that they saw a lack of revenue as the state’s underlying financial problem and urged lawmakers to find other revenue streams. Many called for a statewide progressive income tax.

“I like state services, I use state services and I’m willing to pay for state services," said Steve Lewis, a Rogers Park resident.

Alaska has not had a personal income tax since the Legislature passed a bill eliminating the tax in 1980. It is the only state that has neither a personal income tax nor a statewide sales tax.


“I remember income taxes and they were totally survivable,” said Dahna Graham, a registered nurse who said she has lived in Alaska for 57 years.

One of the cornerstones of Dunleavy’s budget proposal has been a refusal to institute new taxes or cuts to the Permanent Fund dividend, however.

Democratic Sen. Tom Begich said lawmakers are planning to introduce an income tax bill within the next two weeks, but because of the governor’s opposition to the tax and the lack of votes necessary to override a veto, he doesn’t expect it to get a vote.

“I hope people will continue to say what they said today, because you don’t get an income tax unless you talk about an income tax," Begich said.

It won’t be the first time the question of an income tax has come up in the Legislature. An income tax bill passed in the House in 2017 before dying in the Senate.

Other lawmakers have offered alternative taxes. Republican Rep. Chuck Kopp does not favor income tax, but said he would support a statewide sales tax as an alternative.

“A consumption tax, a statewide sales tax, even at one percent raises a few hundred million dollars, and that does get the out-of-state people,” Kopp said. “The 2.2 million tourists that come up here each year are generally shocked when they come to Anchorage and there’s no sales tax.”

Madeline McGee

Madeline McGee is a general assignment reporter for the Daily News.