Todays ADN article on the most recent road snow plowing angst, How local roads’‘absurd ownership mishmash’ affects snowplowing, by Zachariah Hughes, addresses an important issue but might have avoided the real absurdity of our Alaskan obsession with demanding small government and then being unhappy when we get it.
An underlying issue is the tax base to fund road maintenance. Both the muni and state have historically had low motor vehicle fuel taxes and relied on constrained general fund revenue and federal prevention maintenance funding. Our conservative politics that emphasize reducing the size of government combined with the continued “Alaska disconnect” between our economy and our public services means we get what we don’t want to pay for.
Fuel costs are very high in our islanded economy that anchors its fuel cost based on the cost of barging fuel from the northwest, disconnected from the local abundance of local oil and instate refining. (BTW, in-state refining capacity and the associate production and transportation jobs that were reduced dramatically when our own state development agency helped shut down the North Pole refinery by investing in more barge fuel storage capacity.) With the high cost of importing fuel, it’s not a surprise our state and local fuel taxes that are added to the price paid by consumers are the lowest in the country. Increasing those taxes will only make it even more expensive to fill the tanks of our large vehicles and motor toys we depend on for our Alaskan lifestyles.
The Rabbit Creek Community Council hosts a regional resilience committee meeting each month that will take up the issue of the hillside roads at our January meeting. The hillside has struggled with very slow state work on our only main collector streets, compounded by a patchwork of Muni, LRSA, RSSA, and privately organized road plowing.
We could do a lot to streamline some of the patchwork of roads responsibility problem, but that will not address the underlying strangled general fund problem until we decide to pay for the public services we expect.
Comparison of state motor fuel taxes. https://www.urban.org/policy-centers/cross-center-initiatives/state-and-local-finance-initiative/state-and-local-backgrounders/motor-fuel-taxes