Opinion: Stable Tax Policies, Balanced Fiscal Plan Will Keep Alaska Strong
Alaska is at a tipping point, and Alaskans have a choice to make: either keep Alaska competitive and fix our fiscal crisis or continue down a path that ends in a failed economy.
The KEEP Alaska Competitive Coalition, a broad-based group of Native corporations, unions, businesses and individual Alaskans, understands that fair and consistent tax policies on our resource industries are essential for Alaska’s economic future. We are 5,000 members strong and we share a common mission: solve Alaska’s fiscal crisis, do it now, but don’t destroy our resource industries in the process.
There are many of us who remember an Alaska before the fishing, mining and oil industries were the titans they are today. We understand that Alaska is better off responsibly developing and marketing our natural resources than not.
The seafood industry has been the backbone of Alaska’s coastal economy since before statehood. Alaska has the most prolific commercial fishing industry in the US, producing more harvest volume than all states combined. Alaska’s seafood industry provides thousands of seasonal and full-time jobs statewide and contributes millions annually for state and local governments.
And the oil industry has paid for almost 90 percent of our government for the past 40 years. Even in these days of low oil prices and low production rates, oil provides 67 percent of the state’s unrestricted revenues and supports one-third of our economy.
Yet, we have changed oil tax policy 7 times in the last 12 years.
If most of our revenue, and most of our jobs, come from the resource industries, we must realize that we can’t tax away their incentive to invest and still expect to have a sustainable economy.
The solution to our fiscal crisis is not that hard. We can develop
a durable and sustainable fiscal plan by:
• Continuing to cut the cost of state government
• Using a sustainable percentage of value of our permanent fund dividend earnings for state services
• Increasing revenue by some combination of taxes (sales tax, income tax, sin taxes), if necessary
• And, we must act now, while maintaining stable and competitive tax policies on our resource industries
Alaska has much to be thankful for and on which to build an economic future.
Alaska’s abundant natural resources are the envy of the world.
We have the largest wild salmon and pollock stocks on earth.
Our mineral reserves are among the biggest in the world.
And, at today’s production rate, we have more than 40 years of proven oil reserves remaining on the North Slope, with more to be discovered. We have the necessary infrastructure on the Slope, the trans-Alaska pipeline and the Valdez terminal.
Not only is Alaska rich in opportunity, it has one of the best labor forces in the country. And, most Alaskans want to remain here.
We are the most politically secure, economically strong and safest nation in the world.
Why not market these attributes, be competitive and make Alaska the economically vibrant state it can be?
Here’s what Alaskans can do:
• Support a solution to Alaska’s fiscal crisis that includes cuts, restructures the permanent fund and introduces new taxes
• Urge our legislators not to kill our resource industries with unstable tax policies and over-taxation.
• Tell our legislators to be responsible and find a solution to our fiscal crisis this legislative session.
• Talk to our employees, friends, neighbors and others so they understand the urgent need to fix our deficit on a sustainable basis.
Our goal is to support a durable fiscal plan, which includes stable tax policies on our resource industries, and to keep Alaska competitive.
Jim Jansen is Chairman of Lynden. Marc Langland co-founded Northrim Bank and served as its Chairman until he retired in 2015.