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Opinion: Ballot Measure 1 must be defeated in an historically bad year

We are your neighbors, friends and community leaders. But most importantly, we are voting no.

  • Tuesday, October 27, 2020 12:30pm
  • Opinion

By OneALASKA co-chairs Chantal Walsh, Bill Popp, John Sturgeon, Gary Dixon, Julie Sande, Genevieve Bell, Jason Grenn, Crawford Patkotak, Jill Schaefer, Nicholas Begich III, Jodi Taylor and Angie Tallant

Alaska is as diverse as it is magnificent. People from all walks of life choose to make Alaska home because it offers so many things, natural beauty, a strong sense of community, abundant natural resources, and above all opportunity.

Just over a year ago, we came together as a diverse group of concerned Alaskans united against a real and serious threat to that opportunity — Ballot Measure 1. With that, OneAlaska was formed. We are organized labor, business and Alaska Native corporations, outdoor recreation, small business, nonpartisan political leaders and more. We are your neighbors, your friends, and your community leaders. But most importantly, we are Alaskans voting no.

No one has been exempted from the 2020 roller coaster. It has been a tumultuous year full of hardship and uncertainty for every Alaskan. We have watched family members lose jobs, our favorite restaurants and coffee shops close, and once-bustling office buildings empty. We are a state dependent on oil revenue, and amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, have watched the price of oil plummet to historical lows. And to add to the anxiety, we are now being asked to vote on a ballot measure that will further damage our economic health. Not only is Ballot Measure 1 bad for Alaska’s future, it will not even provide the short-term fix proponents are falsely promising.

Proponents have spun a good story based on emotional soundbites and rhetoric, but the facts do not support them. The vote yes group has no independent studies, and no independent economic analysis that support their claims — none. Alaskans deserve better. Tax policy is complicated and requires study, debate, analysis, and discussion. A significant, untested and risky tax increase during a time when the economy is in the ditch will not solve Alaska’s fiscal problems, in fact, it will make the state’s fiscal situation much worse in the long term; it is dishonest to claim otherwise.

The dire effect Ballot Measure 1 will have on our state is not a matter of opinion. Multiple independent economic studies have confirmed what we know to be true. A commissioned by the legislature found that “the short-lived benefits (to the government) of the proposed changes will have to be carefully weighed against potential consequences in terms of the overall business environment, concerns over fiscal stability and associated investment (dis-)incentives on the North Slope and, indeed, elsewhere in the State.” Alaska Native corporations commissioned their own which concluded “a new tax would further impact the economy and risk the employment of thousands of Alaskans, while simultaneously failing to deliver an effective and stable revenue model for the state.”

Perhaps most alarming, Alaska’s previous tax director Ken Alper, and a key drafter of Ballot Measure 1, recently said, “Ballot Measure 1 isn’t a perfect bill. It will be complicated to administer, and it has a couple of ambiguities.” He followed up with, “If the initiative passes, I believe it will spur the Legislature to come back and pass a clean-up bill.” Let that sink in — an actual drafter of the ballot measure does not believe it is good policy and needs to be fixed because the tax is too high. That is hardly a ringing endorsement. One must ask why are they trying to sell a flawed policy to Alaskans?

Voting is underway. Between now and Nov. 3, we have a choice to make about in which direction we want Alaska to move. Do we want a chance at economic recovery and a strong future? Or do we want to risk further damage to our fragile economy? No matter what you think about changing oil taxes, Ballot Measure 1 is not the way to do it it is poorly written, and won’t achieve the results the proponents claim. That is why we are standing up for our workers, our economy, and our entire state. We strongly urge a NO vote on Ballot Measure 1.

• Chantal Walsh, Bill Popp, John Sturgeon, Gary Dixon, Julie Sande, Genevieve Bell, Jason Grenn, Crawford Patkotak, Jill Schaefer, Nicholas Begich III, Jodi Taylor and Angie Tallant are co-chairs for OneAlaska.

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