Tax cap sponsor ready to try again

Posted: Sunday, February 25, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- The proposed statewide cap on property taxes crashed and burned in November, but sponsor Uwe Kalenka is back at it with another initiative allowing local governments to change property assessment guidelines set by state law.

''As long as you walk away, its a good landing,'' said Kalenka, who was at the Capitol this week seeking legislative support for the idea, which wouldn't go on the ballot in 2002 if lawmakers approved it first.

The initiative, which hasn't gone out for voter signatures yet, would let municipalities provide limits on assessment and taxation of all property or any class or classes of property within its taxing authority.

In contrast to the tax cap, which would have limited property taxes to 1 percent of assessed value, the new measure wouldn't require municipalities to do anything.

''How can anybody be against it?'' Kalenka asks. ''That's motherhood and apple pie.''

Opponents of the tax cap argued that it would be unfair to impose on the rest of the state a remedy for a perceived problem in Anchorage.

Kalenka said he wants to see if the local control rhetoric was sincere.

Sen. John Cowdery, R-Anchorage, who counts Kalenka among his constituents, said he supports local control, but doubts Kalenka will be a good messenger after the tax cap campaign.

Senate President Rick Halford, R-Chugiak, is one of the few legislators who openly supported the tax cap.

He said he voted for it with the idea that it would force greater reliance on sales taxes, and attributes a pending sales tax in Anchorage to the tax cap debate. But Halford had no immediate reaction to Kalenka's new initiative.

Meanwhile, there's some doubt whether many local officials want the freedom Kalenka says he's trying to give them.

''I don't think that this is an issue with anybody except Mr. Kalenka,'' said Kevin Ritchie, executive director of the Alaska Municipal League.

Kalenka contends that assessments should not increase much until property is sold, when the higher value is reflected in the sale price. Otherwise, property owners who want to stay put can face higher taxes for decisions made by others in the real estate market. The tax cap would have limited annual increases in assessments to 2 percent until the time of sale.

Ritchie said the effect of that would be to shift much of the tax burden to the youngest families who bought their homes most recently.

Kalenka said he can muster public support for his new initiative, and attributes the more than 2-to-1 drubbing the tax cap took at the polls to its opponents overwhelming financial advantage.

''Next time around, we make sure we have the money to counter it,'' Kalenka said.

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