Alaska Voters to Consider Property Tax Exemption Act


Alaska’s primary election is set to take place on August 28, 2012, and so far the state has only one confirmed ballot measure: the Alaska Property Tax Exemption Act. The measure would increase the maximum residential property exemption and provide for annual adjustments.

If voters approve the measure, it will allow municipalities to overlook as much as $50,000 toward the value of any residential property when imposing taxes. The cap is currently set at $20,000, so voter approval would raise the exemption by $30,000. Municipalities would have the ability to adjust this exemption each year according to increases in the cost of living, as determined by the state assessor.

The Property Tax Exemption Act was originally proposed in May of 2009, but underwent a series of delays. In June of 2010, Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell rejected the initiative due to an insufficient number of signatures. A total of 32,734 were required, and the initiative was 1,214 signatures short.

Although the sponsors had turned in more than the minimum number of required signatures, some of those signatures were dismissed. “Not all of the signatures could be qualified because people signed that were not registered voters,” state election system manager Shelly Growden told the Fairbanks Daily News Miner.

But in December of 2011, the lieutenant governor reversed his decision and approved the initiative, and Alaska residents will now have the opportunity to vote on it. The initiative has the support of Assemblywoman Nadine Winters, former Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker and former assemblywoman Eileen Cummings, all of whom sponsored the bill. According to Winters, the initiative would provide necessary tax relief to Alaska residents.

Rep. Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks, has also been a very vocal supporter of the bill, arguing that an increase in the exemption is the best way to provide tax relief to “regular people.”

But not everyone supports the initiative. Critics have argued that increased exemptions would result in higher taxes for non-residential properties. Don Dwiggins, treasurer of BOMA Anchorage, told the Daily News Miner that the initiative shifts the tax burden to commercial property owners.

Originally, the sponsors wanted to raise the exemption to $100,000, but later reduced their proposed cap to $50,000.

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