- Associated Press - Thursday, August 17, 2017

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - A Republican state senator pursuing a run for governor said Thursday that Alaskans should get a say on whether the state should impose an income tax or make changes to how the earnings from Alaska’s oil-wealth fund are handled.

Sen. Mike Dunleavy of Wasilla said both issues should go to a public advisory vote. He said he thinks one would find that people don’t believe government has been reduced enough and aren’t ready to give up their money until it has been.

Dunleavy and others unsuccessfully floated the idea of an advisory vote previously, as lawmakers debated using Alaska Permanent Fund earnings to help cover government costs amid a multibillion-dollar budget deficit. That idea went nowhere and the debate over using fund earnings remains unsettled.

Dunleavy is the highest-profile candidate so far to file a letter of intent to run for governor. He is pursuing the governor’s office over another term in the Senate, to which he was first elected in 2012.

The election is next year. Gov. Bill Walker, a one-time Republican no longer affiliated with a political party, is expected to run again.

Walker has been pushing for a plan to resolve Alaska’s deficit that includes some use of permanent fund earnings and taxes. The House, led by a majority coalition composed largely of Democrats, passed an income tax bill earlier this year that was quashed by the Republican-led Senate. Walker has said he expects to unveil a new tax proposal of some kind this year for lawmakers to consider.

Dunleavy left the Senate majority caucus earlier this year over disagreements about spending and proposals to limit the size of the dividend that Alaskans receive from the permanent fund.

Dunleavy has advocated deeper budget cuts, saying the state was “living way beyond our means for years.”

The state is at a crossroads, he said.

“What I’m concerned about is that, right now, the discussion is how do I take a dollar out of your pocket and give it to your neighbor’s pocket as opposed to creating brand new money, brand new wealth, brand new jobs,” he said.

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