Tax cap needed to put people's interests ahead of government's

Posted: Sunday, November 05, 2000

Over the last few months politicians, bureaucrats and other special interest groups feeding at the public trough have been falling over themselves trying to defeat the tax cap initiative. Tax cap supporters and homeowners have been called parasites and other names. Deplorable tactics of this sort only split and alienate the population and show how weak the other side's arguments are.

Repeatedly, we have been assailed with bogus arguments of why people should not vote for the tax cap. One of the favorite arguments is that big business will be the real winners if the tax cap passes. People who make this argument are not economic wizards because businesses do not pay taxes -- people pay taxes. Businesses simply pass along taxes to consumers in the price of goods and services.

And if big businesses are the ones with the most to gain if the tax cap passes, why are big businesses the largest contributors to our opposition, Alaskans United Against the Cap? The fact is that big business is very comfortable keeping the property tax load on the backs of homeowners.

Contributors to our opposition make up a list of who is who in big business and labor in this state. The list of contributors ranges from the police union to the Alaska Chamber of Commerce. Surely, no one is so naive as to believe that these groups made those investments without concern for their own welfare. They see their contributions as an investment in maintaining the status quo, which is most beneficial to them.

Another bogus argument that I have heard is that taxation should be a local issue and that each community should impose a tax cap if it wants. Unfortunately, I have heard this argument from attorneys and other educated people that are either ignorant of the law or deliberately distort the facts.

Although I wholeheartedly support local control, it is not possible to do this in regard to property taxes. Title 29 of the Alaska Statutes dictates how real property is assessed and taxed. In order to change this state statute, it has to be amended and that is precisely what Proposition 4 does. Further, the problem of drastic property tax increases is not confined to Anchorage but is all over the state from Ketchikan to Barrow.

It is deplorable that Anchorage's newly elected mayor threatens citizens with all kinds of cuts and closures of public facilities. We have made numerous recommendations to streamline municipal services, to the tune of millions of dollars.

Unfortunately, for obvious political reasons, our recommendations have fallen on deaf ears. Despite the fact that the municipality has approximately $250 million in pure cash in the bank, the Anchorage mayor tries to panic the voters into voting against Proposition 4.

We know that there is no reason to close fire stations or to turn off the street lights. Any unfor-seen short-term shortfalls can easily be bridged with a portion of our rather large savings. The same scare tactics our opposition espouses were deployed 20 years ago in California when Proposition 13, a measure similar to the tax cap initiative, was debated. These gloom-and-doom arguments also were heard in 1983 when the Municipality of Anchorage passed a budget cap and, most recently, two years ago before the advisory vote to raid the permanent fund. The electorate has continually rejected these arguments, and we are sure that they will reject them on Tuesday.

The tragedy of the tax cap issue is that none of the opponents will address the key cause of the initiative, which is the practice of the Alaska Legislature and the local governments to constantly put the interests of the government and the special interest groups ahead of the people's interests. It is time for citizens to assert their power to reign in unwilling politicians who are beholden to special interest groups and only give lip service to citizens.

The average increase of property taxes in Anchorage has been approximately 7 percent annually. This far outstrips inflation. Housing is a basic need and is becoming increasingly unaffordable for the average citizen. It is a given that if you vote "no" on Proposition 4 your property taxes will go up, while if you vote "yes" on Proposition 4, your taxes will go down.

I urge everyone to vote "yes" on Proposition 4 so that we can keep roofs over our children's heads. I urge all of our seniors to vote for Proposition 4, because it is only a question of time before the Legislature, under pressure from local governments, will repeal the senior tax exemption.

I urge everyone to reject the gloom and doom of our opposition and to vote to change an unfair system. Change means progress and with progress comes prosperity. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to put the brakes on ever-increasing property taxes in the state of Alaska.

Do not miss this opportunity, and vote "yes" on Proposition 4 on Tuesday.

Uwe Kalenka, an Anchorage restaurateur, launched the tax cap initiative and heads the group Tax Cap Yes.

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