Let’s talk about the political elephant in the room:
Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, has put his next re-election in jeopardy by spearheading an income tax in the Alska House. Chatter about voting him out has already begun amongst Homer residents, as they share the sentiments of some 58 percent of the state who oppose a state income tax in Alaska.
Likewise, it seems that those who oppose his income tax are ready to dig deeper into the budget and continue cutting to make up for the deficit. As well-intentioned as that may be, it is a deeply misguided approach to solving the fiscal crisis. As Seaton himself has reiterated, we have already cut the budget 44 percent. If we dig any deeper, we begin gutting critical services to the state that make it less and less attractive for economic investment.
Other forms of taxation simply will not do, either.
A sales tax, for instance, is both regressive and fails to come even close to filling the gaping holes in our budget. The same goes for a payroll and investment tax, as well as raising the gasoline tax. An income tax is the optimal form of taxation, as it spread the burden evenly across Alaskans and is the most reliable raiser of revenue.
Nobody likes paying taxes, but the current situation is unsustainable: cutting, hoping for $110 a barrel oil prices and cutting some more will send our economy deeper into recession.
High school graduates will seek opportunity in states that can promise it. Business leaders will see the sinking ship and find elsewhere to invest their money, especially as credit rating agencies like S&P threaten to downgrade our credit rating.
University students will finish their general education requirements and then transfer to an institution where their programs are not in jeopardy of termination, and professors will think twice about sticking around — resulting in a brain drain that deprives our state of the thinkers and innovators we need now more than ever.
All that said, here is what I say to Homer residents and the state at large ready to vote Seaton and others from the House Majority Coalition out come election season: an income tax isn’t ideal, but it is the only realistic plan addressing the fiscal crisis being offered in the Legislature.
The Alaska Senate has refused to recognize that the days of relying on the oil industry are over and seem to be avoiding making tough political decisions, and has proposed a devastating, non-starter of a fiscal plan.
The House is making a good-faith effort to close structural deficits in order to pull Alaska out of the mud and put us back on track. Seaton recognizes what many might not until we are spiraling out of control: standing by and doing nothing in the name of economic freedom will cause far more damage to our state than any broad-based tax proposal will.
Robert Hockema is a permanent resident of Homer and a junior at the University of Alaska Anchorage, majoring n political science.