Petition garners plenty of support

More than 2,600 signatures collected on food-tax initiative

Posted: Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Petitioners promoting a sales tax initiative to exempt nonprepared foods for the Kenai Peninsula Borough's sales tax turned over more than 2,600 signatures to borough Clerk Linda Murphy late Monday afternoon.

If 1,935 of them are found to be valid, voters would be asked to approve or reject the tax exemption at the Oct. 1 municipal election.

"I'm confident that we have the appropriate number and everything is covered," said James Price, who led the push for the tax exemption.

Price also is running for the Alaska House from District 34. A Republican Moderate, he will challenge the incumbent, Nikiski Republican Rep. Mike Chenault, in the November general election.

Price said he and several co-sponsors of the initiative have been attending various public functions, such as the Kenai River Festival and Soldotna Progress Days, collecting signatures. They've also collected signatures at various stores and malls around the borough.

Murphy said Monday that it would take at least this week, and possibly part of next week, to determine how many of the signatures are valid. The law gives the clerk's office 10 days from the day the signatures are turned in to complete the job, which would be Aug. 15.

"We will attempt to get it done this week, but we can't promise," she said.

Borough employees are preparing for this week's meeting of the borough assembly, a Board of Adjustment hearing and candidates filing for municipal office.

Murphy said the Alaska Division of Elections is providing a voter database against which petition signatures, addresses and other identifiers must be checked. But those signatures, ultimately, are checked by hand, a time-consuming job, she said.

Price said he is confident the tax provision has a chance at the polls.

"I do think there is going to be a battle," he said. "Those who oppose it will try to promote their side of the issue. I hope to promote our side. I feel we should prevail."

He said he expects there will be a lot of information put before the public and said people should be cautious about "smoke and mirrors."

"I trust the public to make the right decision," he said.

Price has experience drumming up public support on issues. He led the recent successful fight against building a private prison on the Kenai Peninsula.

Should the initiative petition be successful and voters approve the measure, municipal cupboards would be significantly barer next year, according to an analysis by the borough.

The borough alone could lose upward of $2 million in sales tax revenue, while the various cities also would find healthy percentages of their revenue streams drying up as well, according to officials with the cities.

A draft of an ordinance that would be considered by the borough assembly if the voters say yes includes a provision to exempt the same food items currently exempted under the federal Food Stamp Program.

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