(NEW YORK TIMES) – Oil money no longer pays the bills here.
The governor, facing a profound fiscal crisis, has proposed the imposition of a personal income tax for the first time in 35 years. State lawmakers, who recently moved into a palatial new office building here, where they work when not toiling in the far-off Capitol in Juneau, are now seeking less costly digs.
And a state budget that was a point of Alaskan pride — and envy from around the nation — lies in tatters as revenue that flowed from selling crude oil from Prudhoe Bay over the past four decades has been swept away.
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With oil prices down along with oil production, the state is facing an Alaska-size shortfall: Two-thirds of the revenue needed to cover this year's $5.2 billion state budget cannot be collected.
Many Alaskans are not old enough to recall times this bad. This is the nation's least-taxed state, where oil royalties and energy taxes once paid for 90 percent of state functions. Oil money was so plentiful that residents received annual dividend checks from a state savings fund that could total more than $8,000 for a family of four – arriving each autumn, as predictable as the first snowfall.