Alaskans don't have a clue about how good they have it

Posted: Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Alaska is by no means the only state in the country that is suffering at the hands of volatile economic markets and questionable political leadership.

It is the only state that pays its citizens for breathing the air and requires no contribution from its citizens other than breathing the air. There is NO state income tax, NO state sales tax, and NO state property taxes. Alaskans, despite their legitimate complaints over the high price of fuel and groceries, have pretty darn good lives. I know, I spent the first 30 years of my life in Alaska.

Even though I moved from Alaska two years ago so my husband could pursue more job opportunities, I still feel connected to the state that I call home. However, the move has only caused me to more strongly believe what I felt before: Alaskans can't have it all for free. You may not want to hear it, but it's true.

When I share my Alaska life with my new neighbors and colleagues here in the Midwest they are envious of the independent lifestyle and rugged beauty I describe; they are flabbergasted at the economic policies.

My students want to "move to Alaska" when they graduate. Other teachers ruminate over what their actual income might be if they were to transplant themselves to Alaska and be free from state and local taxes as well as lower property taxes than they experience here. The gross salary I earn from my teaching position in Holmen, Wis., is actually comparable to the salary I would be earning if I had stayed in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. But that is, indeed, another issue altogether.

It is an incredible irony that there are billions of dollars sitting in a bank account, virtually untouchable, and our schools are falling apart, and that the roads in many places are like the remnants of a war zone. Everyone is certainly willing to take, but not so willing to give up a little for the whole. "Protect yourself and your own interests" is the motto for all: individual, businessman, politician.

The only problem is that no one trusts anyone else and as a result nothing much is done. Alaskans are notorious for complaining loudly when their interests are in harm's way, but rarely

turn out to vote in the same numbers and with the same voice. I sadly watched this attitude as I grew up, and I sadly see it reflected in news reports today.

If you don't trust the politicians to do right by the permanent fund (which is probably a justifiable concern), then be prepared to do something,

to give something (pay taxes) for the privilege of living in Alaska.

And indeed, it is a privilege to live there. Just as it is a privilege, a gift, to receive a permanent fund dividend check every year, not a right.

Remember, if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got.

God bless the USA and Alaska,

Audrey Alfson

Houston, Minn.

Language arts teacher

Holmen High School

Holmen, Wis.

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