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‘Timing couldn’t be worse’: Homer Chamber of Commerce reacts to the proposed gas tax hike

Boat yard in Homer, AK
Boat yard in Homer, AK(Staff)
Published: Mar. 26, 2021 at 8:14 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - House Bill 104, which is making its way through the legislature in Juneau, aims to double the motor fuel tax for cars and trucks from eight cents a gallon to 16. Boats and other watercraft would also be getting a doubled tax on fuel from five to ten cents a gallon if passed. It’s news that isn’t sitting well with Homer fishing businesses, according to the Homer Chamber of Commerce.

Brad Anderson, Executive Director of the chamber, said for the bill to be moving along now so close to the other side of the pandemic is causing concern for the commercial and charter fishing companies in town. He said last summer, most of those businesses were down by about 70%.

However, he said many reservations from out-of-state travelers are getting booked up right now. They’re expecting a strong summer if the costs of doing business and adapted models stay the same.

“Everything is indicating right now that we’re going to have a very strong summer down here,” Anderson said. “I mean if nothing gets in the way, it should be really strong for us. We know that primary travelers coming up here are going to be traveling by air.”

So even though many tourism businesses are looking for more Alaskans to spend money in-state, Anderson said none of the businesses he’s talked to about the motor fuel tax bill think the extra costs to fill up the tank will keep people from driving down to Homer.

According to Anderson, It’s the boats and all the fuel that they use that’s worrying people in Homer. Even though he said many do want the Alaska Department of Transportation to be able to take better care of the roads.

“We have to deal with revenue issues as well as cutting spending issues,” Anderson said. “So everyone is waiting to see what’s coming up. Hopefully, our Legislature comes up with a good mix of solutions to it, but really fearful that an undue burden will come on certain sectors of our business community.”

In the bill, it is written that watercraft used for commercial fishing would be entitled to a motor fuel tax refund of five cents a gallon if the tax on the motor fuel has been paid.

Staff at State Rep. Andy Josephson’s office confirmed that charter companies would not be included in that refund unless they have an Individual Fishing Quota, or IFQ.

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