GUEST COMMENTARY: Fraser Institute: Alaska economic freedom on the wane
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on AKHeadlamp.com, a website created by the Alaska Support Industry Alliance.
Alaska: the land of mountainous expanses, tremendous natural resources, phenomenal wildlife, rugged and independent people, and lack of economic freedom. Wait, what?
You thought Alaska was a land of opportunity, overflowing with economic freedom? Think again. The Fraser Institute recently released their 11th annual Economic Freedom of North America report and the findings concerning Alaska are grim.
The report measures how economically free North America is at a national and sub-national level.
According to the report, in terms of economic freedom, Alaska ranks 48th out of 50 U.S. states – just ahead of New York and California. Supporters of free markets and limited government should be exceptionally concerned that Alaska ranks anywhere near those two bastions of big government and tax and spend policies.
The Fraser Institute defines economic freedom simply as the ability of individuals to act in the economic sphere free of undue government restrictions. The report measures a jurisdiction’s level of economic freedom by analyzing numerous variables from different policy areas such as government spending, taxation, and regulation of markets.
Unfortunately, data from the report shows Alaska severely lacks a robust level of economic freedom needed to spur strong job growth, raise living standards, and create greater opportunity for all. According to the report Alaska is losing its competitive edge due to high levels of state spending, generous subsidies, government employee pensions, a sizeable state government workforce, and several other factors.
The only policy area where Alaska shines is taxes, thanks to our lack of a state income and sales tax (though Gov. Walker and others are trying to reinstate the state income tax). It is worth noting that since the passage of oil tax reform under (Senate Bill) 21, our economic freedom measure concerning taxes has substantially increased!
In 2016 the Legislature and Gov. Walker should have one major goal: increase Alaska’s economic freedom in order to facilitate a healthier economy, lift people out of poverty, fix our fiscal crisis, and increase general well-being. Right sizing government, by cutting spending to the sustainable level of $4.5 billion as developed by Dr. Scott Goldsmith, is one of the most important ways to achieve this goal.
Not imposing new taxes, not raising taxes on industry, advancing the Alaska LNG Project, and increasing oil production will all help boost Alaska’s level of economic freedom.
Headlamp hopes policy makers take notice of our dismal standing presented by the Fraser Institute, and will resolve to change it for the benefit of Alaska’s next generation.