What happened to Fish and Game's neutrality on ballot propositions?
Ballot box biology first reared its ugly head in 1996 when anti-hunters and animal rights zealots promoted a ban on same-day airborne wolf hunting. They succeeded in distorting the issue so people thought they were voting to ban aerial wolf hunting -- which already was illegal.
The fine print of the initiative also made it virtually impossible for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to ever do any predator control. Fish and Game employees were told by their political bosses in Juneau to remain strictly neutral on the issue, that it was something for the voters to decide. When several dozen biologists signed a newspaper ad opposing the ballot measure, they were reprimanded even though the ad did not identify them as Fish and Game employees.
In 1998, it was wolf snaring. Again, Fish and Game managers saw a serious threat to their ability to manage moose and caribou on a sustained yield basis. But once again their political bosses in Juneau silenced them.
This year we have two ballot measures dealing with wildlife. So again we can expect Fish and Game to remain silent and neutral, right? Wrong!
Commissioner Frank Rue and Deputy Commissioner Rob Bosworth are actively opposing the best interests of wildlife managers and our wildlife resources on both issues -- to the point of appearing in television debates on the side of the anti-hunting, animal rights coalition. What happened to the department's neutrality policy?
It is clear there is a significant disconnect between Alaska's working wildlife managers and political appointees in Juneau.
I am confident the vast major of Fish and Game employees will vote "yes" on proposition No. 1 in spite of their politically driven leadership.
Only anti-hunting advocates benefit from wildlife ballot initiatives
Animal rights activists like to argue that, as non-consumptive users, they are not represented by the Board of Game process. The Alaska Board of Game, with the help of the citizens' advisory committees and professional wildlife biologists, manage wildlife for the maximum sustainable population of animals that an area can support.
Hunters are only allowed to harvest the surplus animals in those areas to keep them from literally eating themselves out of house and home. That leaves the maximum population of wolves, moose, caribou or any other animal available for watching, photographing, worshipping and all other non-consumptive uses imaginable with the exception of anti-hunting.
What this means is that non-consumptive users are represented by the Board of Game. It's the anti-hunting that isn't represented, which ultimately benefits every person that enjoys wildlife, whether the use is consumptive or non-consumptive.
Wildlife ballot initiatives benefit no one but the anti-hunting and anti-animal use advocates. A "yes" vote on Ballot Measure No. 1 will help ensure continued wildlife abundance for all users.
Tax cap minuses outweigh any benefits from initiative
Initial reaction to the proposed 10 mill property tax cap was positive as governments do spend too much. Reducing expenditures is difficult as witness the groaning over the Legislature's five-year attempt to reduce annual spending by less than 1 percent. The borough could reduce the mill rate as bonds are paid off. Reasonable people of goodwill disagree.
1. Anchorage and Fairbanks have 18 and 22 mill tax rates in some areas. Anchorage could pass a sales tax (which would remove the Anchorage advantage over Kenai Peninsula businesses). Anchorage and Fairbanks could pass their own local tax caps as we have done without bothering us.
2. The Kenai Peninsula Borough has an eight mill cap on property tax for general revenues, excluding service districts, and 3 percent on sales tax. The assembly funds the maximum allowed to the school district and additional projects outside the cap.
3. As the proposed cap would replace the existing state 30 mill cap with a 10 mill cap for each "municipality," the city of Homer's 5.5 mills would not be directly affected. However, the surrounding area rate is 10.6 mills for the borough, hospital, college and roads.
There would be no funds for the new fire service area. Service area boards are only advisory as the borough assembly sets the mill rates for service districts. Homer hospital, college and road supporters traveling the 75 miles to beg the borough assembly in Soldotna for funding would be in competition with other areas with higher populations and more assembly members with opposing political agendas. Although the .6 mill Homer area overage is small, the assembly would have to cut nearly 3 mills (over $1 million) from the North Kenai service districts. It is doubtful the assembly would fund the Homer districts at present levels.
4. The borough may not be able to pledge its full faith and credit for future school bonds. Reportedly, as a result of the California tax cap, school bonds are not being sold in California. If the state of Alaska continued to pay 70 percent of school bonds, the borough could not fund its remaining 30 percent share if it could not sell bonds after Jan. 1, 2001. While the Homer area has outstanding school facilities, the future would be in doubt.
5. Assessments of over 2 percent per year on properties would be prohibited unless there was new construction or a change in ownership. If re-assessments are done every three years and inflation increases 2 percent every year, the property would be assessed at only 2 percent rather than the 6 percent increase. A person owning unimproved land for many years in downtown Homer would pay just a few dollars in tax while improved property owners would pay higher taxes in the thousands.
6. The tax cap invites litigation on delegation of taxing power, appropriation issues, legal initiative subject, restriction of home rule powers, equal protection and impairment of bond obligations.
7. The tax cap may result in a state sales or income tax.
8. The borough millage credit on the state 20 mill tax on oil properties might be reduced, enriching state coffers and reducing borough revenues by over $1 million.
The world will not end if the tax cap passes, but the minuses outweigh the pluses. The better way is to vote for your preferred candidates in the fall elections.
James C. Hornaday
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