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We Build Alaska

Fairbanks politicians seek to overturn popular citizen tax cap

After a series of special meetings of the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly seeking to break the decades-popular “Tax Cap” via a special election proposition, the Assembly voted 7-2 to advance the ten million dollar tax increase question to the voters in a special election on May 7. Voters will need to vote “No” to protect the popular Tax Cap and prevent a large $10 million tax hike.

The Assembly chose to put it to a special election in May rather than the October election, even though they just “found” an extra $13 million over the last couple of weeks that one Assembly member referred to as “magic money.” They know local voters have overwhelmingly renewed the tax cap for decades. They are hoping to suppress the voice of the voters who typically participate in the regular October local election and skew the electorate in favor of special interest groups by spending $125,000 to hold this special election in May. If the grassroots turnout at the meeting is any indication, it won’t work.

Scores of citizens turned out to testify against the special election to break the Tax Cap. Based on the looks of contempt on many of the Assembly members’ faces during the meeting, which started at 5:30 pm and lasted beyond midnight, the Assembly had little respect for the will of the voters. They appeared to be caught completely off guard. Still, they pressed on with their plan even though testimony was about three to one against the proposal.

The ordinance claims the proposed increase in taxes is for education. In Alaska, it is unconstitutional for funds to be dedicated and bind future elected bodies. The state has a constitutional duty to fund education to the basic need. This means that even if all of the proposed $10 million in new borough taxes went to education this coming year, the extra $10 million in subsequent years can and will be spent on any valid expense, such as labor agreements, at the whims of future assemblies.

At the same time as politicians on the Assembly are trying to trick local voters into raising taxes on themselves, the borough is in labor negotiations with three bargaining units. Negotiations typically wrap up in the fall of a mayoral election year, as this year is, and the contracts are valid for three years. There is no question that a large influx of new tax dollars in the middle of negotiations will invigorate the unions to successfully negotiate better compensation packages for themselves, helping themselves to the new influx of cash. For this reason, massively increasing taxes in the middle of labor negotiations would put the borough at a strategic disadvantage at the negotiation table and in the end would unnecessarily drive up long-term labor costs. This also means that in the long run, much of these new tax dollars wouldn’t make it to fund education but rather drive up labor costs.

The tax cap has worked well over time by keeping government growth in check. It limits the total tax revenue the borough can raise but it also allows the revenue to grow with inflation and population growth. This lets the government maintain its scale over time even as the borough changes. It has frequently gained the ire of those who want to raise taxes and waste public resources.

Official special election information is available here.

Aaron Lojewski served on the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly from 2017-2023. He is a candidate for the October Fairbanks North Star Borough mayoral election. 

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Aaron Lojewski
4 months ago

Thank you Alaska Landmine for covering interior Alaska politics.

Dan
4 months ago

I have found, with one exception, that the current members of the FNSB Assembly are graceful and receptive to public testimony. I’m not sure how much it affects their vote, but they always listen to me. This was also pretty much true of the conservatives that recently got voted out or exited the assembly, including Aaron, with one additional exception. It’s pretty rich of Lowjewski to criticize the facial expressions of our community members who serve during a 7+ hour meeting, mostly consisting of public testimony. Aaron knows what contempt for the public looks like, as he allied himself closely… Read more »

Aktrish
4 months ago
Reply to  Dan

This assembly members are public servants – and obviously Dan you do not understand this! Secondly no one in their right minds would first of all pay for a special election over $125k because those such as lawyer/Attny Savannah Fletcher et al, don’t give a rats ass about the people she’s supposed to be serving! Additionally the mere fact they cannot account or keep track & lost $13MILLION is telling!! They are now breaking the law, just to line their pockets and go against the taxpayers in which it affects us all!

Michael Gendreau
2 months ago

We have Federal Tax, Borough property tax and tobacco and other tax, sales tax in North Pole. Does any really think we need to pay more taxes? They are also proposing a 35 Mil puppy shelter. My property taxes have gone up over 30% in the last two years. People are being told to votes yes to lift the sales cap. Common sense tells me that everyone, especially politicians need to learn to live with their means and be fiscally responsible in the best interests of the people they are elected to serve. I also find it interesting that the… Read more »

pissedalaskan
1 month ago

What I find missing from this article is the group found meddling in the election. Seems those facts always seem to be brushed off as too inconvenient to sell clicks. Shortsighted voters never seem to realize how they keep voting the same batch of horrible legislators back into office. Shortsighted legislators have brought our communities, towns, and soon our state to a near collapse. A statewide tax was hinted at as coming during this session. If you missed it, most of them said it in the last days. We should be paying for our future and education was the only… Read more »