Petersburg Pilot -

Financial disclosure for local officials, tobacco tax pass in Tuesday's election

 


Though local public officials have been exempt from doing so in the past, they will now have to file financial disclosure statements in accordance with state statute.

According to the preliminary results released by the borough, just 31 votes separated proponents and opponents of the proposition in Tuesday's municipal election.

The issue came up for reconsideration due to the municipality's incorporation as a borough last year. In the past proponents of the exemption have argued that requiring financial disclosure, which includes income sources and business interests, discourages potential candidates from running, especially because of the small-town nature of Petersburg.

The state statute is in place to ensure there is no conflict of interest between candidates and their private or business interests and in order to develop public confidence and accountability, according to the Alaska Public Offices Commission webpage.

Candidates must file financial disclosure statements upon filing for election and annually thereafter.

Six propositions aimed to increase tax revenues to make up for projected state funding decreases in coming years.

The closest contest among the six regarded the imposition of an excise tax on tobacco products. Voters narrowly approved the measure, which will impose a $2.00 per pack tax on cigarettes and a tax equivalent to 45 percent of the wholesale price of other tobacco products. Some 77 votes separated the proponents and opponents of the excise tax.

Of five propositions seeking to alter the current senior citizen sales tax exemption, two were approved by voters. One such measure approved by voters eliminates the senior citizen sales tax exemption for non-borough residents and the other establishes a one-year residency requirement.

Previously any Alaskan resident 65 years or older could qualify for the exemption. The newly approved residency requirement makes the standards for obtaining the tax exemption card more stringent than the previous requirement of showing proof of a local address and intent to make a home in the borough. The residency requirement also requires individuals to be physically present in the borough for 185 days of the year.

Voters overwhelmingly voted against a sunset date, which would eliminate the senior citizen sales tax exemption in 2020, and against limiting the current exemption to heating fuel and groceries only.

Also in a close contest, voters did not approve increasing the sale tax exemption cap from $1200 to $2000. Some 56 percent of voters voted against increasing the tax cap, retaining individuals' exemption from paying sales tax beyond the $1200 cap in large purchases.

Voters also filled in some 31 bubbles on the ballot to cast their votes for candidates on the Borough Assembly and six other commissions.

In the one contested race, incumbents Cindi Lagoudakis and Bob Lynn were chosen by voters to continue serving as Borough Assembly members, defeating candidate Marc Martinsen whose experience included five years of service on the former Petersburg City Council. Lagoudakis and Lynn will each serve a three-year term.

Six commission positions were not filed for by any candidate and will remain empty until individuals are appointed to fill them.

In all 1,015 voters, or 39 percent of the eligible population, turned out to vote in Tuesday's election.

The Borough Assembly will meet in a special session tomorrow at 10 a.m. in the Assembly Chambers to canvass and certify the Oct. 7 municipal election.

 

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