I’m trying to sleep on the plane. I’m on Alaska Airlines flight 131, the non-stop from Chicago to Anchorage. Its about a six and a half hour jaunt. Its that restless fitful sleep, a half hour here, ten minutes there, interrupted by flight attendants, the occasional bit of turbulence, and my squirmy seventeen year old.
But the conversation in the row behind me has me wide awake and typing now. Sometimes you can’t avoid overhearing the conversation. I’m in the window seat, and with my seat tilted back and a glance over my right shoulder, I’m amazed to see the deep voice coming out of the kid in the aisle seat. He looks twelve, but he’s probably about 17, as is the young man in the center. They’re from Kenai. I can’t see the guy directly behind me, but he lives in Chicago. If he hadn’t said so, the unmistakable twang absolutely gave it away. He’s engaged the two young men in a conversation about backtrolling for kings on the Kenai, chasing halibut near Montague Island, and other pursuits I’m fairly familiar with. I can’t help it. I’m all ears.
I’m pretty impressed by the midwesterner’s knowledge of our state’s waters in SouthCentral. I’ll call him MW (MidWest) from here on out. Then the other shoe drops. MW lives in Chicago, but he works in Alaska; did survey work in the eighties around the pipeline, and has been working in the oil fields ever since.
MW’s been working in Alaska for at least twenty years. He obviously spends very little money in our state. He has Alaska buddies with boats and gear. Maybe he chips in for gas and snacks, and he obviously has bought a cooler or two, and probably tons of dry ice. But that’s it. He hauls hundreds of pounds of Alaska meat back to Chicago every summer, and obviously bucketfuls of money.
Its the all too familiar story I overhear every time I fly home, usually on the red-eye from Seattle as scores of men with thick southern drawls tell similar stories on their way back up to the slope.
It drives me crazy. And it takes me right back to the ridiculously spoiled entitlement mentality that is all too rampant by too many of the citizens of our state who scream bloody murder whenever a state income tax discussion surfaces.
Alaskans are the least taxed citizens in the entire country. As an Anchorage resident, last year the only taxes I paid were the property taxes on my house; around $4000. The wife and I got two dividend checks; net tax = $0. Even if you don’t count the PFD check, we’re still the least taxed citizens of any state. Unfortunately, zero is the same amount thousands and thousands of non-resident workers have been paying Alaska for about thirty years. And its probably safe to say billions of dollars that could have gone into the state treasury.
In the meantime, oil throughput continues to decline, and we have an unsustainable state budget. But no one dares talk about an income tax though. Something that would capture some of the pay MW is getting out of here scott-free with, and could help us close budget gaps with.
Oh God, MW just started talking about oil taxation being unfair, and diminishing incentive for oil companies to invest. The Kenai lad says something unsteadily about corporations and bureaucracies. I’m doing all I can not to turn around and jump down MW’s throat. I can have that discussion and appreciate it to an extent with Alaskans, but hearing it from a guy whose robbing us blind while we let him is infuriating.
Oh geez, now I’m trying to type with long brown hair draped over my keyboard, as the daughter’s head flops back and forth on her tray table. How can she sleep like that?
So when are Alaskans going to wake up and when are our legislators going to get brave enough to start talking about a sound fiscal plan that includes fair taxation, balanced budgets et al, without worrying about winning their next election, because our spoiled electorate has had it too damn good for so long?
Whose going to stand up and be the adult in this state?
Sigh. Three more hours to Anchorage. Time to stuff in the ear plugs and turn on the i-pod. I can’t stand to listen anymore. Ooh wait...the kid with the baritone is sharing a good tip for catching silvers.
Pretty soon we’re going to have to decide ourselves whether to fish or cut bait Alaska. Or, as usual, we can just stick our heads in the sand and wait for oil to go back up to $140 a barrel and hope the oil companies find more.