By Gershon Cohen
August 13, 2006
Measure 2 will establish a statewide tax on ~1,000,000 passengers traveling to Alaska each year on large cruise ships of $50/passenger. Cruise passengers pay head taxes around the world and this $50 million will help us maintain and improve docks, waterfronts, and emergency services used by the billion-dollar cruise industry every day. Alaskan communities shouldn't bear the whole burden of supporting these facilities through local taxes.
Alaska has the best seafood in the world and Ballot Measure 2 will help keep it that way by requiring cruise ships to meet and verify compliance with all Alaska pollution rules like every other industrial and municipal discharger. The cruise lines have been convicted of numerous felonies for purposefully dumping hazardous wastes, yet are the least regulated and monitored dischargers into our public waters.
Ballot Measure 2 will require cruise lines pay taxes on all Alaska-based income and gambling profits at a level equal to the charitable giving and taxes paid by all other Alaska gaming operations. The cruise lines' existing legislative exemptions from taxes on gambling profits and marine revenue are unfair to other Alaska businesses.
Measure 2 will also require cruise lines to communicate honestly with their passengers about commission rates for promoting shore-side retailers. Their on-board promotions/recommendations regarding shopping and touring are advertising, not advice. Passengers should know businesses pay exorbitant commissions to appear on ships' preferred merchant lists; local businesses that can't or choose not to pay are blacklisted. Alaska has required commission disclosure by the cruise lines since 1994, but never enforced the law. Ballot Measure 2 strengthens existing reporting requirements by requiring cruise line disclosure of commission amounts, helping local businesses compete against out-of-state chain stores. No reporting will be required of shore-side businesses.
Alaska is open for business, but not for sale. The multibillion dollar Miami-based cruise lines are trying to buy the election on Measure 2 by giving their front group $15,000/day in campaign funding. Alaskans are receiving numerous misleading mailers from the cruise industry claiming the Cruise Ship Ballot Measure is an attack on the "Alaska tourism economy." Ironically, the words "cruise ship" never appear in the ads. One recent ad lobbied against levying the head tax during a time of budget surplus; it was obviously printed before the oil pipeline shutdown. Should we assume the cruise lines now support the head tax?
Ballot Measure 2 doesn't threaten Alaska's tourism economy, local businesses or the cruise lines; it fairly addresses an unregulated and untaxed foreign-owned industry. You can separate the truth from the propaganda with a little simple math. An average week-long cruise costs ~$3,500 (cruise ticket + airfare + shopping + tours + alcohol + casino gambling.) A $50 head tax is less than 1.5% of the total cost, less than one tank of gas. Ballot Measure 2 will not decrease the number of people coming to Alaska and reroute Alaska-bound cruise ships to New Jersey, or make people spend less while they are here. Cruise lines have raised ticket prices by hundreds of dollars in the last two years and more people are cruising to Alaska than ever before. Passengers will willingly pay a small tax to support the local infrastructure they use. Since people will still choose to visit Alaska, Ballot Measure 2 will not harm the tourism economy.
The cruise lines are fighting this ballot measure because they don't want Alaskans setting the rules for their behavior while they visit our State. For six years highly paid lobbyists have used boatloads of tax-free money and political muscle to block legislative attempts to effectively regulate or tax the cruise lines.
Alaska voters have the opportunity to win two battles in the August primary. Passing Ballot Measure 2 will tell the cruise lines they are welcome to come to Alaska but must pay their fair share. It will also prove Alaska's elections aren't for sale. Vote YES on Ballot Measure 2.
About: Gershon Cohen, of Responsible
Cruising in Alaska, is a sponsor of Ballot Measure 2.
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