Sales tax proposal brings opponents to Mat-Su Borough Assembly meeting
The Mat-Su Borough Assembly taking public comments on an area-wide sales tax that would offset property taxes.
District 1 assemblyman Jim Sykes proposed the ordinance that was up for public comment on Tuesday night.
The proposal calls for a two-percent sales tax on the first $1,000 of every purchase, with some exceptions like health care services.
Similar initiatives have failed in years past. Sykes hopes the promise of lower property taxes will get people to consider a sales tax this time around.
“It was easy for people who opposed the tax to say, 'Hey, the borough is going wild, they just want more money. It's unlimited and they just want more, more, more’. But that's not the case. If we get more, more, more, your taxes go down, down, down,” Sykes said.
People who spoke at the borough’s assembly meeting Tuesday night were overwhelmingly opposed to a new tax.
Dozens of people turned out for the meeting and those who gave public comment spoke against the ordinance.
“They’re not going to believe for one minute that it’s going to come off their property tax and I’m pretty doubtful myself too,” said Carol Carman from Palmer. “When government has more, they spend more.”
Palmer and Wasilla already collect a three-percent local sales tax; Houston has a two-percent tax. Talkeetna has a three-percent sales tax but that money is dedicated to upgrade its aging sewage system. The borough’s proposed tax would be added on top for those communities.
“I would think that there would be more people, myself included, that would do more shopping in Anchorage to save that 5%,” said Dave Jenkins of Palmer. “It doesn’t bother me to go in there once or twice a month if I have to.”
The McDowell Group studied sales taxes in Palmer, Wasilla and Houston to estimate how much money a borough-wide tax could bring in.
Sykes’ proposal of a 2% tax is estimated to generate about $24 million a year.
Several business owners were concerned about pulling more money out of customers’ pockets. Taylor Jordan, owner of Black Birch Books in Wasilla, said it’s tough to compete with communities that don’t have a sales tax.
“The problem is we’re not going to see a bunch of people from out of town coming into the bookstores if we keep increasing the sales taxes,” Jordan said.
The Mat-Su Borough Assembly will take public comment on the issue again on Aug. 20.
It will be up to the assembly to decide if they want to put the ordinance on the November ballot for voters.
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