GUEST COMMENTARY: Ballot Measure 1 will hurt Alaska’s struggling nonprofits
COVID-19 has done a number on Alaska’s non-profit community. Most of the major fundraising events were either cancelled outright, or scaled down and conducted virtually.
Millions in revenues have been lost. Every nonprofit in this state is nervous about the future. If we are going to recover, we will need more community support than ever. That means we need to defeat Ballot Measure 1.
The nonprofit sector makes up a critical component of the state economy. In fact, Alaska nonprofits play a vital role in the state’s other major industries including seafood, finance, healthcare, and tourism. The nonprofit sector is woven into the fabric of Alaska in every way conceivable, delivering essential services like housing, education, and environmental protection to residents statewide.
Outside of charitable individuals, Alaska’s nonprofits are funded by the oil and gas industry. In fact, it’s almost impossible to find a nonprofit partner list in Alaska that doesn’t include an oil and gas company.
In the nonprofit world, we look for long-term solutions to problems. Ballot Measure 1 is a shortsighted approach to a long-term problem, and will hurt more than it is intended to help.
The nonprofit I am proud to represent provides young Alaskans the tools and knowledge they need to make smart academic and economic choices as they grow into financially savvy adults. Our top corporate donors work in the oil and gas industry, and their support has helped us educate youth for decades.
Ballot Measure 1 puts that support in jeopardy by increasing taxes on a struggling industry by between 150 to 300 percent.
COVID-19 has already wreaked havoc on the entire statewide economy, and targeting one industry for a massive new tax will only make the situation worse. Should Ballot Measure 1 pass, not only would our economy and jobs be at risk, but Alaska’s thriving nonprofits would suffer the consequences, too.
Many nonprofits are clinging to life during the ongoing pandemic. Now is not the time to create barriers for growth our state’s largest economic force. Oil and gas sets the pace in Alaska. The industry alone generates 38 percent of all wages in Alaska, and a quarter of all jobs. But those jobs are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the full social and economic impact of oil and gas in Alaska.
From the arts, to youth and social service organizations, nonprofits across Alaska benefit from healthy, sustained oil and gas spending. The industry has funded STEM programs, food pantries, animal rescue agencies, women’s shelters — the list goes on — for decades.
I’m voting No on Ballot Measure 1 this November, and I encourage my nonprofit partners to do the same. Together, we can rebuild and strengthen Alaska alongside the oil and gas industry, protecting our jobs, families, economy, and essential nonprofits.
Flora Teo is the president of Junior Achievement of Alaska.