Anchorage Economic Development Corp. is asking residents what projects they want to fund from a proposed sales tax

A woman speaking at a podium.
Jenna Wright, President of the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation, discuses ideas for Project Anchorage at the Peterson Tower on Tuesday, June 11, 2024. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

A coalition of business leaders is asking Anchorage residents what public projects they’d like to see from a potential sales tax. It’s called Project Anchorage.

The 3% tax initiative is led by the Alaska Economic Development Corp. Two-thirds of the tax would be dedicated to property tax relief and the other third would fund public projects. 

At a news conference Tuesday, AEDC president and CEO Jenna Wright said Anchorage is competing with other cities to attract and retain talent and workforce. She said Anchorage’s competitive advantage is quality of life. 

“This project offers us the opportunity to come together as a city and imagine what the next chapter of Anchorage could look like,” said Wright. 

Wright said they’re looking at a five year lifespan for the tax. She said there’s no limit on types of projects that can be submitted. In the 1980s, the state funded projects to build and improve public facilities, including the Sullivan Arena, Loussac Library and Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. Wright said those projects are what makes the city special.

Nolan Klouda, director of the University of Alaska Center for Economic Development, did the economic analysis for the proposal. He said the sales tax would generate about $180 million in revenue annually. That comes to $120 million for property tax relief, and $60 million for projects.

A man in a plaid suit talking.
Nolan Klouda, executive director for UAA’s Center for Economic Development discusses Project Anchorage at the Peterson Tower on Tuesday, June 11, 2024. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

Klouda said for every $100,000 of assessed value, taxpayers would save about $310. For a home valued $450,000, he said taxpayers would save $1,163. He said the proposal has exceptions on necessities including groceries, childcare services, and medication.

“The exemptions that are designed to protect low income households,” said Klouda. “There’s definitely a lot of thought that goes into how to minimize negative impacts to low income households.”

Laile Fairbairn is co-owner of several local restaurants in Anchorage. She’s in support of the sales tax and said it’s time to invest in Anchorage.

“At the end of the day, we need more people that love our city. We need more people that are willing to take big risks and invest,” said Fairbairn. “For existing businesses to succeed, we need a workforce. For new businesses that want to start up here, we need people to work here, we cannot sit by and let outmigration continue to happen. It’s a recipe for a dying city.”

The concept is modeled after Oklahoma City’s MAPS initiative, a 1% sales tax specifically for public projects. The original vote was in 1993, but it has been reauthorized by voters an additional four times.

Mayor-elect Suzanne LaFrance hasn’t endorsed the sales tax proposal.

Ideas can be submitted to the coalition through Sept. 15 on the Project Anchorage website

Advocates hope the sales tax is on the ballot in Spring 2025.

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