As part of his comprehensive solution to the state’s budget crisis, Governor Walker proposed a whole slew of tax increases for interests and industries across the state. There was an increase in mining, alcohol, and even the state’s most contentious industry, fishing.
Now with the Legislature’s Special Session winding to an end, some legislators are discussing a shift in the proposal to increase fishing taxes to favor one set of fishing interests at the expense of another.
Here are the changes being discussed to the Governor’s fish tax plans:
One of the plan’s proponents, Rep. Jonathan Keiss-Tomkins (D-Sitka), says it’s an attempt to provide more desperately needed revenue to the state while “holding as harmless as possible Mom and Pop types.”
Another legislator from a district where fishing is king, Rep. Louis Stutes (R-Kodiak) said fishing taxes are a big issue to her constituents. She said she opposes any changes to fishing taxes until concerns she has heard from fishing groups about the lack of appropriate funding for the Department of Fish and Game are addressed.
Both Kreiss-Tomkins and Stutes acknowledged the discussion is probably moot since they don’t see any of the tax measures floated by Gov. Walker as having enough votes to pass this year.
The proposed increase to the fish tax rate ($18 million) would bring the state’s cost of management ($60 million) to the state’s share of tax revenues ($42 million) from commercial fishing to a net zero.
Commercial fishing receives the largest net subsidy of any resource industry in Alaska.
Since statehood Alaska has been subsidizing the cost of commercial fishing management for the benefit of private industry (dominated by out-of-state (Seattle) multi-national corporations). Alaska banned the fish trap and Seattle still gets the fish, and we pay for it.