"I salute Penny Nixon and Dennis Oakland for their efforts, for fighting hard on behalf of borough taxpayers, and for fighting to win."
- Rep. Kohring
With the Mat-Su Borough spending taxpayers' money faster than Valley homeowners can fork it over, people are beginning to revolt to halt property tax increases dead in their tracks. The Mat-Su Borough Tax Cap is an initiative created by two Valley residents, Penny Nixon and Dennis Oakland, determined to bring an end to skyrocketing tax increases. They won the right to circulate their initiative, requiring 1788 signatures by May 18th. According to Nixon, the goal is to garner 6000 signatures to send our local government a strong message well before the issue is placed on the ballot.
What’s all the fuss over? The following statistics dramatize:
The Valley’s population has grown about 30% the last three years. Yet the Borough's budget shot up a record 58% during the same period, and area wide property taxes an astounding 75%. In addition, costs of Borough provided services such as subdivision platting and planning have seen an astronomical 1000% increase.
The Mat-Su School District's budget, controlled by the Borough, increased roughly 43% the last four years, outpacing the 33% growth in student enrollment during the same period. Costs per student now exceed $10,338.00 annually (triple the yearly costs at Matanuska Christian School, the privately owned and operated facility in Palmer).
The facts speak for themselves. The Borough is spending much faster than typical tax increases would justify, and Nixon and Oakland are pointing this out loud and clear. Further, Mr. Nixon informed me he anticipates winning the popular vote on this issue by over 60%.
Escalating local taxation has become especially insidious to senior citizens and people on fixed incomes, because it has given them little time to adjust to the increases. If a senior is living on a small stipend or pension and is hit by a major property tax increase three straight years, they can be devastated to the point of being forced to sell, forego buying needed medication, or even take in illegal borders to make ends meet. This is not benevolent public policy, turning seniors into tax evaders out of a sense of dire necessity.
I have watched with dismay similar out-of-control spending here in Juneau for the last 11 years, so it's heartening to see people back home like Nixon and Oakland forming a group to take on big government spenders. I feel as if my pleas and warnings over the past decade have taken physical form in this tax rebellion. I strongly endorse their efforts and encourage them to fight hard, up the ante, never give in and take the day!
Mr. Nixon has clearly done his homework. He is confident high taxes have become such a serious situation, that Valley residents will excitedly join him by signing the initiative with enough speed to quickly meet his goal. He has 102 initiative books on the street, each with space for 100 signatures. Mr. Nixon hasn't had to rely on professionally paid signature gatherers either, so popular is the issue. He also feels the pressure from this initiative contributed to ending the egregious real estate transfer fee, which was nothing more than a new tax.
I salute Penny Nixon and Dennis Oakland for their efforts, for fighting hard on behalf of borough taxpayers, and for fighting to win. They prove the old adage wrong that "You can't fight city hall," by giving us a shining example of how it can be done successfully. Let's hope we can get some of that same spirit and enthusiasm to spill over into Juneau!
Rep. Vic Kohring serves Wasilla and the Mat-Su in the Alaska State Legislature