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OPINION: Alaskans must invest in our own future

January 19th | By Orin Seybert Print this article   Email this article  

I have been a resident of this great land since 1949. I married a local, born-and-raised Alaskan girl. We raised eight children together, and they all still live in-state.

I chose to become a loyal member of the Republican party more than 60 years ago, in large part because of Jay Hammond. I was 14 years old when I first met Hammond, and he was responsible, in part, for my wanting to learn to fly, and — after he went into politics — for influencing me in my political decisions.

Hammond told me more than once to not just vote a straight party line, but instead to look for the best qualified candidate, and vote accordingly. That thinking is why across-the-aisle coalitions have been so successful since statehood.

In regard to our present situation — do you all remember the bumper sticker of the '80s that read, "Lord, just give us one more oil boom, and we promise not to piss it away this time?"

Well, in the past few years, we have pissed away over $10 billion, with no end in sight.

We all need to pitch in and help preserve the government services and benefits that we have all become accustomed to and deserve. Yes, oil prices are rising slowly, and there are new opportunities arising, but those are all nebulous and long-term, at best. We should not stake our future and survival on one outside source.

Instead, if a windfall happens, such revenue should be considered as icing on the cake, maybe be used to catch up on our much-needed infrastructure upgrades, Pers & Ters, etc.

The best and fairest solution is to look at HB 115, from last session. This act would:

1. Exempt the dividend from taxation;

2. Provide a $4,000 exemption for each individual;

3. Provide a 2.5 percent tax for single taxpayers up to $50,000, and 2.5 percent for couples filing jointly up to $100,000 income, (less, of course, the exemptions for dividend and additional $4,000).

That way, we can all step up to the plate to help support our government services, and be proud of our ownership of this state. Also, this bill is the most equitable way for all of us, with the lower wage earners paying less, while the upper level earners will be paying rates up to 7 percent.

Also it helps the problem of all these non-residents coming here, oil workers in winter, and fishermen in the summer, making their money, then taking it out of state, while using our state-provided services.

HB 115 would put Alaska down as the fourth lowest tax in the nation, with only North Dakota, Arizona and Louisiana being lower. Also, we do not have a sales tax, and one of the lowest gasoline taxes in the nation.

All the other proposals so far are much more regressive, with the lower wage earners contributing a much higher percentage than the rest.

With all due respect, I consider Gov. Bill Walker's latest proposal to be a last-gasp attempt to get anything through the Senate Republican majority to at least help the situation. But Walker's proposal would just be a band-aid, and only offer half the income as proposed by HB115, plus, again being much more onerous to the lower wage earners.

I do not have much optimism for anything being done this coming session, and last year proved that special sessions are only a waste of time and money, as long as the current members of the Legislature are serving.

So I guess we will have one more year of spending down our reserves. That makes the upcoming elections this fall all the more important.

Please, people, take a hard look at how you vote this fall, and particularly look at the Senate Republican Majority, we need to get people elected who really care about the well-being of all Alaskans, and not just their own political ambitions.


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