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EDITOR, Daily News:
Contrary to what Alaska’s officials and legislators have told us, the solution to our current fiscal crisis is relatively simple and straightforward. All we need to do is reestablish the 1975 progressive income tax and end the tax deduction currently being given to each barrel of oil. The income tax would bring in a median return of $1.25 billion, while the increase in oil taxes would have a yearly return of between $900 million and $1.1 billion. These two measures, taken together, would supply enough revenue to largely fill in our state’s budget deficit.
There would consequently be no need for the state to confiscate money from your Alaska Permanent Fund Dividends, the most regressive and unfair system imaginable. There would be no need for the state to draw money from the permanent fund’s Earnings Reserve, which is both freezing and endangering the long-term value of the fund. And there would be no need for the state to make further destructive cuts to essential public services and vital infrastructure: education, healthcare, policing, roads and the marine highway system. Should the price of oil return to the point where the state government could be fully paid for with oil tax revenue, the income tax could be refunded.
As most Alaskans would directly benefit from a full progressive income tax and a full permanent fund dividend, the question naturally arises: Why hasn’t the state government enacted such a program? Why does Alaska’s political class insist on inefficiently using the permanent fund and cutting vital services? Again, the answer is simple and straightforward: our state government is currently being run in the interests of a small group of rich Railbelters who would rather watch the state fall to ruin around them then pay a progressive tax. Alaska’s legislators like to present their decision to tax the PFD as a courageous one, when in reality it is anything but. Taxing the permanent fund is actually the easiest action from their perspective, as it is to the direct benefit of the political administration, the wealthy, and the oil companies. By using the permanent fund our politicians can avoid stepping on the toes of anyone who actually matters to the establishment.