Bagley reelected; tax exemption for food defeated

Posted: Wednesday, October 02, 2002

KENAI (AP) -- Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dale Bagley easily won a second term in office.

Bagley garnered 55 percent of the vote against Ken Lancaster in Tuesday's municipal elections. Lancaster, 59, a state legislator and former mayor of Soldotna, gave up his seat in the Alaska House to challenge Bagley.

Boroughwide, voter turnout in the municipal election was about 26 percent.

''The problem is that nobody's voting. That's pretty sad,'' Lancaster said Tuesday night.

Bagley, 38, was first elected borough mayor with strong support in rural areas such as Sterling, Kasilof and Nikiski. A Soldotna real estate broker and Assembly member before his election, Bagley clashed at times with the Assembly majority. But he won support for his workmanlike running of borough business and for reducing the local tax rate.

Kenai Peninsula voters also approved two propositions with multimillion-dollar price tags, for school and landfill construction and defeated an initiative that would have repealed the borough 2 percent sales tax on groceries.

''I'm delighted, and I think the voters did the right thing,'' said Homer City Manager Ron Drathman.

Homer stood to lose roughly $400,000 a year in tax revenues -- money spent on basics such as police and libraries -- if the initiative passed. Soldotna, dependent on the tourism season's massive summer retail sales, would have lost nearly $1 million a year.

The borough's take of the tax delivers $2 million a year to public schools.

Backers of the tax said it is a great way to wring money from visitors for government services. The alternative, they warned, would have been higher property taxes.

The initiative's main supporter, James Price of Nikiski, described the election results as ''pretty dismal.''

Price said it was wrong and regressive to tax food, forcing the poor to pay a higher percentage of their earnings to fund services. City and borough governments could have weathered the fallout, he said.

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