Some people are surprised that I am so vehemently against Proposition No. 4, the so-called "tax cap." After all, I am a Republican, and I ran for governor on a platform of no new taxes. What am I doing arguing against a proposition that would limit taxes?
I've examined the claims made by the tax cap proponents, and I've found that their claims are simply wrong. Their desire to cut government waste is laudatory, but the method they chose is completely unworkable.
Proponents claim the efforts of the initiative will force local officials to trim the fat from government and equalize the tax burden among taxpayers.
The tax cap would eliminate nearly one-third of property tax revenues ($150 million statewide) that pay for schools and other local services. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that this is not trimming the fat from government. This thing cuts down to the bone-and more.
They claim: More money will remain in the hands of individuals allowing the private sector economy to expand.
The success of a modern economy depends upon a good quality of life. Thousands of Alaskans before us worked hard to make our state one of the "shining places on the hill." They did it with hard work, paying the taxes necessary to provide needed improvements. Today's Alaskans should not betray that trust, nor forget the hard work and sacrifices they made, just because a small minority of hard-headed folks don't want to pay their share of taxes -- and don't want to fulfill their civic responsibilities for the economy and quality of life they enjoy!
I'm not a flower guy. But like our tourists, I enjoy the wonderful flowers of downtown Anchorage, the bike trails and the parks. I'm proud of our museum. This is the largest and most active little city in the United States. Tourists from all over the world like to come here. I'd hate to see that infrastructure destroyed.
There are other reasons for opposing the tax cap:
It imposes a statewide "one size fits all" maximum 10 mill rate on any community with a property tax. It removes our right to make local decisions about our local taxes.
Proposition 4 will not allow new bonds for schools or other public improvements unless these projects fit under that 10 mill cap. That makes new schools, new fire stations, new public buildings a virtual impossibility.
Proposition 4 would force many communities to make deep cuts in school and other services, including police, fire, emergency medical services, street maintenance and snow removal. It will all but eliminate parks and recreation, libraries, arts and sports programs.
The proponents of the tax cap argue that these predictions are "scare tactics" by the opposition to the tax cap.
I've got a Hummer, so I'll get through our roads, plowed or not, potholes or no potholes. Others, however, may not be so lucky. For them, driving to school or work will be slower and more difficult.
The state will not come to the rescue of local governments. Far from it. In the last 15 years, statewide, local property tax increases have been roughly equal to the reduction of state support of major municipal programs. It is simply unrealistic to expect that trend to reverse itself. And yet proponents promise new handouts from the state if this thing passes. Do you believe that?
Now, eventually, some local governments might find other ways to raise money, but they won't make up for the damage done. In California, where they tried this 22 years ago, cities discovered creative ways to nickel and dime citizens. They imposed $10,000 impact fees on new homes. They raised vehicle registration taxes.
And then there's sales taxes. My son Brian is in the Marine Corps in San Diego. He told me that a $35,000 truck would cost him between $4,500 and $6,000 in California taxes and fees. That's too much.
Knowledgeable voters can still elect honest, hard-working representatives who will work hard to eliminate waste in government. But essential services that maintain the equality of life that we enjoy here in Alaska, should not be decimated!
That is why I urge you to vote against Proposition No. 4 on Nov. 7.
Wayne Anthony Ross, who lives in Anchorage, is a Republican and former gubernatorial candidate.
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