Thursday, September 07, 2006

Outsider Backlash Against Alaska 2006 Ballot Measure Two Begins

The backlash against the recent passage of Alaska's Ballot Measure 2 has begun, and has manifested itself in the pages of the Anchorage Daily News. I envisioned some backlash, as I discussed in my previous post on this subject. During the past two days, two letters to the editor from Outsiders (what we call "non-Alaskans", not intended to be derogatory) have appeared, both expressing disappointment.

First is a letter from David A. Medeiros of Stoneham, MA, published on Wednesday September 6th:

Passing the tourism tax marks end of Alaska's traditional hospitality

Alaska voters decided to charge its guests $50 for the privilege of spending money in Alaska if they have the temerity to travel by cruise ship. Amazing. This is like inviting someone to your home for dinner and then charging them. While I do not believe that cruising is the best way to see the great state of Alaska, it was my introduction to Alaska combined with a land tour starting in Fairbanks.

The natural beauty speaks for itself. But it was the kindness and hospitality of the people that made Alaska exceptional. Now this hospitality is turned into fleece the guests. This from a state the history of which reveals that hospitality can be lifesaving. The Iditarod is a classic example both historically and currently. Along with this initiative should have been the closing of any tourist bureaus. This tax is a way of saying we don't want you here. This is a sad day for Alaska and the end of its hospitality.

Next is a letter from Jennifer I. Leak of Verdi, NV, published on Thursday September 7th:

Cruise tax shortens visitor spending

I was seriously considering a cruise to Alaska next September. However, after reading about Ballot Measure 2 passing, I reconsidered my travel plans. If I do choose to come to your state on a cruise, and be taxed $50 per person to do so, I will severely curtail my spending in your ports, and quite possibly remain on the ship. I am not alone in my feelings and believe that there was a better way for Alaskans to protect their environment beside taxing visitors.

Of course, neither letter writer discloses their own state's taxation (graphic courtesy of National Vanguard). While Alaska has no state income or statewide sales tax, Massachusetts imposes a 5% state sales tax, and Nevada a 6.5% sales tax, both of which visitors to those respective states must pay. So this weakens their arguments somewhat. However, you cannot tax your way to permanent prosperity. Just as individuals eventually "grow" into increasing salaries, so societies also "grow" into increasing taxes. And once they've "grown" into increased taxes, they begin to look around for new taxation opportunities. Look at public education - their demands for increased funding are endless. And once taxes are passed, good luck in getting rid of them. Remember the infamous 1898 "telephone tax" (a three-percent excise tax to help finance the Spanish-American War)? It took 108 years to get rid of it.

However, the fact that other states do it does not constitute sufficient stand-alone justification for us to do likewise. Ballot Measure 2 was more emotional than rational. The same tide of reform which swept Sarah Palin to the Republican gubernatorial nomination and propelled Ballot Measure 1 for campaign reform to victory on August 22nd also carried this ill-conceived, ill-constructed catch-all Ballot Measure 2 in a classical emotional overreaction. Proponents of Ballot Measure 2 not only completely disregarded the fact that the cruise industry is Alaska's fourth largest source of income, but also that with declining oil resources currently producing 90% of the state's income, we need to encourage additional industry to diversify the economy and provide revenue during the interregnum between oil revenues and expected future natural gas revenues.

Fortunately, Alaska state law permits the Alaska State Legislature to reconsider ballot measures two years after passage. This means that as early as the 2009 legislative session, the legislature could choose to amend or even repeal Ballot Measure 2 altogether. If the 2009 legislature thinks the same way the current lawmakers do, there's a good chance they may at least amend Ballot Measure 2 at that time, considering that 2009 is not an election year.

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