Opposition to Proposition 2 widespread

Posted: Thursday, October 05, 2006

Opposition to Proposition 2 was widespread, according to a precinct-by-precinct look at the votes in Tuesday’s municipal election.

The controversial referendum on Ordinance 2005-09, a package of revenue enhancements adopted last year that included a provision to raise the borough sales tax to 3 percent, lost by a margin of 4,757 to 3,606.

The ballot measure passed in only five of 26 precincts, all of them rural. They included Anchor Point, Cooper Landing, Funny River, Moose Pass and Ninilchik. Only in Ninilchik did voters cast significantly more “yes” votes than “no” votes. The margin there was 121 yes to 84 no. In all the other locales, yes and no votes were far closer — all within 15 votes.

Voters in Hope were evenly split on the referendum, 15 to 15.

The proposition also failed in Nikiski, where several of the leading proponents of the referendum live and are actively involved in the grassroots organization Alliance of Concerned Taxpayers, whose petition put the referendum on the ballot. Voters there voted 194 to 175 against repealing Ordinance 2005-09.

The measure lost fairly big within borough cities. In Homer’s two precincts, the combined margin was 603 to 495 against repeal. In Kenai (three precincts), voters against repeal outpolled those for the measure 760 to 422. In Soldotna, the margin was 401 to 236, also against repeal. Meanwhile in Seward, voters said “no” by a 390-to-163-vote margin. Even Seldovia chose not to toss out the ordinance, voting 73 to 50 against repeal.

Assembly President Ron Long, reached at Sea-Tac International Airport awaiting a flight back to Alaska, said he saw the boroughwide count as a vote of confidence in the legislative process and a determination by voters that they did not need to intervene.

“Now it is up to us to live up to that,” he said.

The referendum sought to repeal Ordinance 2005-09 adopted by the assembly in June of 2005. It included a 1-percent sales tax increase (to 3 percent), as well as provisions to apply the tax to recreational package sales on a per-person, per-day basis, and create a mechanism for tapping the Land Trust Fund for general government purposes — all of which were considered by the assembly as vital revenue generators.

Last fall, an ACT-sponsored initiative seeking to roll back the sales tax increase, cap the sales tax at 2 percent, and require future sales tax increases to be voted on and approved by 60 percent of the public, won at the polls with 54 percent of the vote.

Then, ACT sought the referendum on all of Ordinance 2005-09. That became Tuesday’s Proposition 2, which included a second chance for voters to decide on the sales tax increase. But this time, voters defeated Prop 2 by a wider percentage margin (57 percent) than Proposition 5 passed by last fall. Long said it was apparent that a lot of people had changed their minds.

“Common sense and stability reared its ugly head throughout the electorate,” he joked.

Long said he wasn’t sure what helped sway voters, but speculated it might have concerned worry over continued full-funding of schools, and the growing problem the borough faces in meeting its obligations to the public employee and teacher retirement programs, something Long called “a ticking time bomb on the doorstep.”

Also nipping at the heels of borough finances are increasing the costs of health insurance and a general increase in the cost of providing services.

That voters decided not to take the sales tax levy arrow out of the assembly’s quiver was “really encouraging to me,” Long said.

Tuesday night, ACT spokesperson Mike McBride said the group had faced some difficulty in explaining its position regarding Ordinance 2005-09, saying referendums were not as straightforward as initiatives. He said the idea of voting to repeal a law was “almost an alien concept” to many voters.

Long disagreed, saying voters know what’s involved in a referendum, because the issue always comes down to the same thing an up or down, yes or no vote on whether to overrule a legislative body.

“A yes means yes and a no means no,” Long said.

Hal Spence can be reached at harold.spence@peninsulaclarion.com.

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