EDITORIAL: Alaskans do their part to help economic climate

Although some candidates no doubt disagree, Alaskan voters got it right Aug. 28.

Only 24 percent of the electorate turned out to vote on one of the last beautiful days of summer, but those who made it to the ballot box did their part to prevent negative impacts on the state business climate.

By a resounding margin of nearly 2-to-1, voters rejected Ballot Measure 2, a 15-page initiative to create a new coastal zone management program to replace the prior regime that expired in 2011 when the legislature failed to renew it.

Better than residents of any other state, Alaskans understand the obstacles thrown in our path from the federal government.

To cite just a few fresh examples:

The Environmental Protection Agency has slapped expensive new fuel standards on the transport companies and cruise ships that play a critical role in our economy, threatening to raise the cost of everything we consume and the cost for tourists visiting our state.

The Interior Department has just withdrawn half of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska from development and chosen an alternative that may make construction of a pipeline from the Chukchi Sea to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System extremely difficult.

Most recently, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decision to delay a final record of decision on the environmental impact statement for Point Thomson will cost the state as many as 1,000 construction jobs this winter alone if the agency does not stick to its previously promised late September deadline.

Nevertheless, Alaskan voters weren’t buying the argument that by failing to pass Ballot Measure 2 we were ceding our destiny to the federal government.

Passing the measure would have only given a host of new tools to the litigious green groups to challenge permitting decisions or whether the eventual regulations comply with the intent of the initiative.

We can’t blame backers of the measure for being frustrated with the legislature’s failure to extend the coastal zone management program, and we commend their effort to put the measure before voters, but if they want to effect real change in Juneau they’ll have their opportunity Nov. 6.

The ballots still aren’t fully counted, but we were heartened to see the narrow margin in the decision over Ballot Measure 1, an initiative to allow cities and boroughs to raise the property tax exemption from the current $20,000 to $50,000.

As of the most recent count Sept. 4, the “yes” votes were ahead by a mere 284 votes out of 115,774 ballots counted with absentee votes still being tallied.

The result of local governments raising the property tax exemption would shift budget burdens on to businesses and renters, impacting job creators and those of lesser means who are typically pinched by high costs in low vacancy areas already.

While it would certainly seem to serve self-interest to vote to lower taxes on yourself and higher taxes for others, no matter what the final tally eventually is we were glad to see so many Alaskans choose the greater good over their own.

It’s a lesson our elected officials would do well to take to heart.


09/06/2012 - 9:15am