Bruce Bustamante is the president of the Anchorage chamber. He says the list of priorities are drawn from responses to a brief survey sent to the 900-plus Anchorage-area businesses the chamber represents.
“Really it was loud and clear, what the desire is of the business community is that we need to get our fiscal house in order first,” Bustamante said. “I mean, that’s a very general statement, but I think everyone has been keeping up with the challenges that are ahead with low oil prices and the need to reduce spending. So that’s gotta be the first action taken.”
The survey didn’t delve deeply into just how much spending should be cut in the coming year. But, Bustamante says respondents did say cuts are only one part of the solution…and that the chamber should encourage lawmakers to consider new, sustainable revenue streams in addition to what’s expected to be extensive discussions regarding the Alaska LNG project.
Among the potential solutions endorsed by members of the Anchorage Chamber are a system to leverage use of the Permanent Fund, a statewide sales tax, and even a statewide lottery.
Taxes targeting specific industries – whether it’s oil and gas, mining, tourism, or otherwise – however, are notably not endorsed by the Chamber, according to Bustamante.
“Anytime a state starts looking at taxes and regulation, then you create this air of uncertainty,” Bustamante said. “And that’s not a good message as it perpetuates out to investors – either investors in the particular industry, or just investors overall.”
And that air of uncertainty, Bustamante says, can be detrimental to sustaining a healthy and competitive business environment.
He says the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce is planning a legislative fly-in with its board of directors on February 22nd and 23rd, to further emphasize the chamber’s priorities.