Friday, September 12, 2008

Alaska isn't like the other 49

Alaska has no state income tax. A huge chunk of the state's money comes from taxes on oil/gas. Here's the 2007 Revenue Sources Book from the Alaska Dept of Revenue.

From The Boston Globe:

She may have fired the governor's chef and sold the state jet, but Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska has also presided over a dramatic increase in state spending in the last two years.

Still, she can accurately claim that her state is in good fiscal health, thanks to an explosion of revenues from state taxes on oil industry profits.

Indeed, in her 20 months in office, Palin's toughest financial decisions involved dickering with the Legislature on creative ways to spend and salt away the billions of dollars in oil revenues pouring into the state treasury.

At times, Palin has been more economic populist than small-government conservative, partly because of Alaska's unique government financing system.

With no statewide income or sales tax, Alaska funds about 90 percent of the state budget from royalties and taxes on oil producers. Soaring oil prices and a higher windfall oil profits tax - an increase pushed through by Palin, now the Republican vice presidential nominee - have state coffers overflowing with petrodollars. The Alaska oil industry calculates that its annual payments to the state doubled in a single year to $10.2 billion.

Until a few years ago, the state government struggled financially for years because of low oil prices. But that's all changed. In the first two budget years under Palin, the state government has stashed almost $6 billion of surplus revenues in various reserve and savings accounts in anticipation of future drops in the price of oil. And the state has allocated another $4 billion over two years for a laundry list of new capital projects, mostly small grants initiated in budget requests by legislators for their districts.

And Alaska residents are getting their cut. Starting this week, every Alaskan who has lived in the state more than a year will receive $1,200 from the state, a total of about $756 million in rebates to offset high energy costs in the 49th state. That's on top of the perennial check each will receive from the state's oil revenue-endowed Permanent Fund, this year a record $2,069 per resident. The large Palin family is eligible to receive more than $19,000 from the combined payments.

So my question to Michael was, how do you know she's a fiscal conservative, given the odd nature of Alaska's economy (or more precisely it's government revenue structure) What economic policies can she translate to the national level?

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