As the son of a Juneau senior citizen who is in her late 70s, I would like to point out some recent events that have had a negative impact on my mother’s financial situation and her ability to live independently.
My mom previously received a monthly “senior benefit” from the state in the amount of $125. That amount has now been cut to $47. She also previously qualified for a sales tax exemption from the City and Borough of Juneau. That has been taken away, except for essential items. She was receiving in-home assistance from Southeast Senior Services and Catholic Community Services (both which are extremely helpful and outstanding organizations we appreciate very much), and unfortunately state funding for this has also been cut for the time being.
With all of the cuts that my mom and so many other senior citizens in Alaska have endured, it is more important than ever to protect the Permanent Fund Dividend from a state Legislature that seems to be focused on budget cuts rather than creating new revenue because many Alaskans, young and old, would be greatly affected.
It must not be easy to make decisions that affect so many people in such profound ways. However, when times are tough, the person who is not afraid to make difficult decisions will more often than not find the solution.
Many of my fellow Alaskans agree that the oil companies should have been paying substantially more in taxes long ago. If the Legislature would have opened their eyes when oil was $90 a barrel, the state would be in a much better position today. It’s not too late, but we must act now. Alaska has never generated increased revenue by implementing tax breaks for the big three, and we never will.
I would like to respectfully ask lawmakers to reconsider their approach thus far regarding budget cuts, and to realign themselves with a revenue-building mindset. Rather than propose ridiculous ideas such as freezing state workers’ pay until oil reaches $90 a barrel for a sustained period of time, which would cost the state more in the future due to lost productivity and the inability to acquire the talent that keeps the state running efficiently, I would like to hear ideas that actually bring much needed revenue to our great state.
I realize that many lawmakers think it is politically risky to support ideas such as a state income tax, but the time has come to put the state of Alaska first.
Ian N. Martin