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Actions speak louder than words; governor's plan benefits wealthy

Posted: Thursday, January 29, 2004

In his Jan. 4 Peninsula Clarion Voices of Alaska article Gov. Frank Murkowski claims to be interested in the future of 210,000 Alaskans under the age of 20. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth deeds speak much louder than words!

He has cut state education support at all levels. Apparently, he also has not taken an active interest in the Alaska high school exit exam nor in improving vocational education in Alaska nor in the federal underfunding of the No Child Left Behind Act, not to mention the latter's impact on our teachers and schools.

Then he says: "... (D)evelopment (of Alaska resources) is not to fund government but to ensure Alaskans have jobs." This is a bit different than what he said during his gubernatorial campaign!

To quote another obfuscator: "What you heard is not what you thought I meant!"

Are the majority of Alaska voters so uninformed that they believe his nonsense? Or maybe they just don't care?

Well, many of you will care soon enough! King Murkowski and his Legislature will begin spending the permanent fund as early as 2004 to protect their fat cat friends and themselves ("most productive, rich") from that dreaded progressive income tax.

Many of you counted on the longevity bonus to help in retirement and many more count on their permanent fund dividends for food for the table, rent, gas and tires for the car, a new piece of furniture, a paint job for the house, clothing and an education fund for your children, and even a short vacation in winter after working three or four summer jobs.

The governor's strategy is simple. Put the constituency in such a fiscal bind and make the monetary hurt so great (began in 2003) that they will agree to any budget solution the politicians

advocate in this case, raiding the permanent fund.

Murkowski knows he cannot balance his budget with logging, mining, coal, natural gas, new oil or fishing in his lifetime, but he is plenty willing to put a world of hurt on Alaskans who cannot protect themselves from laws and line item vetoes over which they have no control. He also seems willing to spend state monies for oil and gas development subsidies and for roads and bridges to nowhere to aid developers in profit making. But, the king will penalize all working Alaskans who make less than about $60,000 per year simply by avoiding a progressive income tax for all Alaskans.

One doesn't have to be able to pass the exit exam to do the math on this. Based on 2003 data, for a family of four earning $30,000 per year, their permanent fund dividends are about 13 percent of their income; for a family making $60,000 per year, the same permanent fund dividends are about 7 percent of their income.

A progressive income tax for everyone would probably start at 0 for a taxable income up to about $15,000 to 17,000 per year (poverty level); about 3 to 4 percent at $30,000 per year and might be as much as 6 to 8 percent at $100,000 per year.

The conclusion from this is: The permanent fund dividend helps those who need it most. But, under our king's fiscal strategy, not only do most Alaskans lose a substantial part of their annual income from their permanent fund dividends, they lose in most state services, they lose in education they simply lose to the benefit of the rich!

But, in Alaska, as the adage goes, "the rich get richer and the poor get kids!" And the poor and middle class also get to pay a higher percentage of their income for the governor's and legislature's myriad fees on gasoline, tires, parks and sales taxes while state services to the needy and state funds for libraries and education are cut. And now there is talk about citizen user fees for those, too!

Just so you'll know what to call this kind of government, it is not democracy. It is rule by the rich and powerful! Currently, we have no checks and balances in the system which are vital to democratic governance. There is no real debate in our state government on any issue right now. And, if you don't believe that, just ask Republican Rep. Bob Lynn of Anchorage. He had the audacity to vote his conscience on overriding the governor's veto of the longevity bonus.

So, next time you see the king, don't forget to bow he's trying to get everyone high-paying jobs. And is he really concerned about the future for the 210,000 young Alaskans under 20 years of age for whom education is vital.

And how is the Alaska government and these young Alaskans' education to be funded, if not from royalties and taxes from Alaska's natural resources, and fees from the poor and middle class? This is not a rhetorical question!

Since an income tax is not even a consideration, there's only one answer the permanent fund. And there will not be any constituency vote on the subject either! The answer certainly is not our logging, mining, fishing or manufacturing industries, nor is it tourism and gambling or lotteries!

Richard Hahn

Soldotna



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