Anchorage to decide again on an alcohol tax

Anchorage Assembly members at a public forum (Photo – Zachariah Hughes)

Anchorage voters will get another chance to vote on an alcohol tax this April.

In a meeting Tuesday night, the Anchorage Assembly opted to put forward a ballot proposition to raise money for dealing with homelessness, public safety, and substance abuse treatment. The measure is similar to one residents voted down last year, but this time advocates say they are more prepared to rally public support.

Related: Anchorage keeps liberal-leaning Assembly, says no to alcohol tax

The assembly is proposing a five percent tax on alcoholic beverages. Proponents say the money is necessary to pay for additional first responders, a detox facility, and dealing with various forms of domestic abuse.

“I feel great about it,” said Tiffany Hall, Executive Director of Recovery Alaska after the vote.

The group helped lobby the assembly to put the measure on the ballot. Hall said advocates have learned lessons after voters shot down last year’s alcohol tax proposal, and plan on honing their message.

“We asked a lot of voters why it did or didn’t pass last year, and we made a lot of significant changes to this year’s version,” she said. “Also, we’re going to actually run a campaign.”

Hall said proponents plan to raise money to combat negative messaging in advance of the April 7th election.

Representatives of the alcohol and hospitality industries have said they will fight the measure.

The Assembly voted nine to two after debating alternative ballot measures to raise funds for similar social programs.

Amendments to the city’s charter require a 60 percent majority to pass new taxes. But the Assembly approved an exemption that will allow the alcohol tax to go into effect in 2021 with a simple majority a simple majority of the vote.