Mat-Su Valley Voters will Decide on Alcohol Tax

In the fastest growing area of the state, the Mat-Su Borough is known for its conservative stance on taxes.

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by Michele White

MATANUSKA-SUSITNA BOROUGH- In the fastest growing area of the state, the Mat-Su Borough is known for its conservative stance on taxes.
    
Now the assembly wants to put another tax before voters.

Mat-Su Borough Assemblyman Steve Colligan introduced the ordinance on July 16th that asks the voters to approve of a sales tax on alcohol boroughwide.

The Mat-Su Borough Assembly voted 6 to 1 to approve the ordinance that will put the alcohol sales tax issue on the October ballot.  Jim Colver was the only Assemblyman who voted against the ordinance.

Colligan represents District 4,  the city of Wasilla.

He says the assembly is trying to adjust to the growth of the borough's population and provide education and emergency services -- without the tax burden falling solely on the shoulders of property owners.

"The purpose is to support education and offset [the property tax burden]," says Colligan, "The revenue stream is already there.  The revenue stream is already coming from property owners.  This would be changing the portion of the revenue stream to a sales tax on that product."

If the ordinance passes, Mat-Su Borough residents will pay a 5 percent sales tax on alcoholic beverages sold in bars, restaurants and liquor stores.

In the cities of Wasilla, Houston and Palmer, where there is already a 2 percent sales tax, the proposed alcohol tax would be 3 percent. 

"With the alcohol tax, we will be lowering property tax by the equivalent amount," says Colligan.

That is not necessarily true, says the borough finance director.

"The alcohol tax may not reduce the mill rate, although it could reduce the mill rate if the assembly chose to do that," says Mat-Su Borough Finance Director Tammy Clayton, ''But, they might take the revenues from the alcohol tax and choose to use it for other programs."

That means that property taxes in the borough may not be reduced at all.

Colligan admits that he has not heard from his constituents on the issue and he did not consult with them before introducing the ordinance to the assembly. 

Ted Anderson Jr. owns the Mug Shot Saloon and Tailgaters Sports Bar in Wasilla.

He doesn't think an alcohol tax will hurt business for bars and restaurants.  But, he does have an opinion about the borough burdening patrons of bars, restaurants and liquor stores to pay its bills.

"I think we have a spending problem more than anything.  I don't think new taxes of any kind are going to help that because they'll just spend it," says Anderson, "If they convince property owners that it's going to help them, they're going to get more people to vote in favor of it."

And so the borough will wait to see what voters say on October 1st.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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