Senate passes bill that seeks donations to close the fiscal gap

Posted: Sunday, May 12, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- The Republican Majority in the state Senate is taking a kinder, gentler approach to closing the state's fiscal gap -- it's asking for donations.

''This is the best way I can think of to increase revenues to the state of Alaska, is to do it voluntarily,'' said Sen. Robin Taylor, R-Wrangell, before the measure passed by a vote of 13-7 Saturday.

The bill establishing the ''Let Me Help Fund'' is sponsored by Sen. Lyda Green, R-Wasilla. It establishes an account in the general fund to receive gifts, donations and bequests to the state.

The bill is a jab at those advocating taxes to help the state address a projected billion-dollar budget gap. It is modeled after Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's ''Tax Me More Fund'' which was established as a tongue-in-cheek response to legislators who suggested tax increases to head off $142 million in budget cuts.

The Senate has refused to consider a proposed income tax and a plan to use earnings from the Alaska Permanent Fund to close an estimated $963 million deficit. Majority leaders have said there is not enough support in the Senate for either measure.

Critics of the ''Let Me Help'' measure questioned whether the account would cost more to set up and administer than it would receive in donations. But Green said any cost would be far less than the cost of setting up an income or sales tax.

Gov. Knowles' spokesman Bob King called the bill a non-solution.

''It's too bad they're wasting their time when they could be addressing serious fiscal problems in a more meaningful manner,'' King said.

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