Brian Lauth, closing manager for Super Bear Supermarket IGA, bags groceries Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. Next month, the Finance Committee for the City and Borough of Juneau will consider whether to exempt grocery purchases from the city's sales tax. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire File)

CBJ to consider ending sales tax on food

Long-running debate set to resume.

On Wednesday evening, the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Finance Committee agreed to add heat to a long-simmering topic and consider whether food sold in the borough should be subject to sales tax.

Citing rising inflation, a growing fund balance in city coffers, and an overall desire to reduce the cost of living in Juneau, committee members agreed the time is right to explore the issue and will revisit it in March.

According to Jeff Rogers, CBJ finance director, prior assembly members have considered repealing the tax on food over the last 20 years. He said three special committees or task forces have reviewed the idea and advanced it for further study.

“In all of the documents I found and reviewed, I find no instance where the Assembly decided against removing sales tax from food. In all cases, the concept was discussed and then appeared to die under its own weight as other priorities became more pressing,” Rogers told committee members.

Rogers said that the city could lose significant revenue — about $6 million a year — by exempting sales tax. He also cautioned that defining which foods are exempt is “contentious and emotionally charged.”

[Nourishing a community]

Assembly member Maria Gladziszewski said she felt the time was right to revisit the issue — even with the topic’s difficulties.

“I don’t think we should put it off one more time. I would like to see this assembly take some time to work on it. It’s not going to be easy,” she said, adding that determining how to make up the lost revenue could prove a difficult task.

Assembly members Michelle Bonnet Hale, Alicia Hughes-Skandijs, Greg Smith, Christine Woll and Carole Triem agreed with Gladziszewski’s sentiments.

“I appreciate that it’s a big lift, but this is a thing I really think we should work on. There are folks who are really going to benefit from it. I’d love to see us work on this and get it accomplished,” Hughes-Skandijs said.

Mayor Beth Weldon and Assembly member Wade Bryson said they agreed in principle. But, they said they have concerns about moving ahead at this time when the economy is still uncertain from the pandemic.

[Childcare challenges keep workers sidelined]

“I’d like to give this back to the community, but the next couple of years are going to be pretty tough,” Bryson said.

Weldon pointed out that much of the money the city is holding is a result of federal relief.

Ideas for making up lost revenue include eliminating other exemptions or exempting food from sales tax but increasing the overall sales tax rate to 6% either seasonally or year-round.

Increasing the tax rate requires voter approval and could appear on the October ballot if the Assembly decides to pursue that option.

Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at dana.zigmund@juneauempire.com or 907-308-4891.

More in News

The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Aurora Forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of Feb. 5

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire 
Edward Richards, left, a high school student in the Sitka School District, talks about the lack of mental health services in Alaska’s public schools as part of the testimony also offered by district Superintendent Frank Hauser, center, and student Felix Myers during a Senate Education Meeting on Monday at the Alaska State Capitol. The committee is proposing a 17% increase in the state’s school funding formula, which was remained essentially flat since 2017.
School’s in at the Capitol

Students and education leaders from around state make case for more classroom cash.

Folks at the Alaska State Capitol openly admit to plenty of fish tales, but to a large degree in ways intended to benefit residents and sometimes even the fish. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
The bizarre bills other state legislatures are considering

Alaska’s Legislature isn’t mulling the headline-grabbers some statehouses have in the works.

This photo shows snow-covered hills in the Porcupine River Tundra in the Yukon Territories, Canada. In July 1997, a hunter contacted troopers in Fairbanks, Alaska, and reported finding a human skull along the Porcupine River, around 8 miles (13 kilometers) from the Canadian border. Investigators used genetic genealogy to help identify the remains as those of Gary Frank Sotherden, according to a statement Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, from Alaska State Troopers. (AP Photo / Rick Bowmer)
Skull found in ‘97 in Interior belongs to New York man

A skull found in a remote part of Alaska’s Interior in 1997… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Officer William Hicks stands with JPD Chief Ed Mercer and Deputy Chief David Campbell during a swearing in ceremony for Hicks on Thursday at the JPD station in Lemon Creek. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
New officer joins JPD’s ranks

The Juneau Police Department welcomed a new officer to its ranks Thursday… Continue reading

These photos show Nova, a 3-year-old golden retriever, and the illegally placed body hold trap, commonly referred to as a Conibear trap, that caught her while walking near Outer Point Trail last week. (Courtesy / Jessica Davis)
Dog narrowly survives rare illegally placed trap in Juneau

State wildlife officials outlined what to do if found in similar situation

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Public defender agency to refuse some cases, citing staffing

ANCHORAGE — A state agency that represents Alaskans who cannot afford their… Continue reading

Most Read