All Alaskans should pay something toward education

Posted: Sunday, February 24, 2002

I have listened with interest to Gov. Tony Knowles' proposal to add $1.2 billion in new taxes over the next three years.

Since the governor announced his plan, I've been conflicted over how to ask the people in Fairbanks whom I represent to pay more taxes to support local education when there are some Alaskans who, even though they have the ability to contribute to their local schools, choose not to.

I respectfully suggest that the governor should not be asking some people to pay more taxes, but rather Alaskans should be asking more people to pay some taxes.

Residents of Alaska living in organized boroughs are required by state law to contribute four mills of the value of all taxable property within their school district toward their local school systems, a total of $156 million statewide in 2002. Those residing in unorganized areas of our state are not required to help, so we will spend this year $121 million of general fund dollars to fully support unorganized Alaska's K-12 education requirements.

Senate Bill 48 addresses this inequity and allows for a methodical and professional analysis of our state's unorganized areas to determine their ability to support local governance. The newly organized boroughs, potentially formed under SB 48, would be granted taxing authority and would be expected to help contribute to their local schools, just as are the people of Fairbanks.

I call on all residents in those unorganized areas of our state, who have the ability to help, to join my constituents in supporting their local K-12 public schools.

Sen. Gary Wilken is a Republican from West Fairbanks who was first elected to the Senate in 1996.

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