Committee moves on fish tax increases

Apr 6, 2016

Increased fish taxes are one step closer to reality after the House Fisheries committee moved forward with its own version of governor’s proposal this week.

Set-netter Lindsay Layland testifies to the Legislature about the state budget, including the potential for increased fisheries taxes, in March 2016 at the Dillingham Legislative Information Office.
Credit KDLG News

House Bill 251 is the governor’s plan to increase fish taxes by one percent as part of the overall effort to bring in more revenue to the state. Industry representatives and fishermen had testified largely in opposition to the plan this winter, and on Tuesday, the House Fisheries Committee  moved a version of the bill that eliminated the increase for canned salmon and redirected half of the new revenue to a new seafood marketing fund.

The version of the bill that passed Tuesday offered a little relief for canned salmon producers, said committee aide Reed Harris.

“We heard a lot of testimony from producers of canned salmon saying that due to a glut on the market, an expected large run, and low salmon prices, selling the product that they have on hand is already a challenge and the office felt that eliminating that one percent increase on the canned salmon tax would be a fair thing to do to help the industry out a bit," he said.

The new version of the tax bill also creates a new seafood marketing fund that could be used to fund the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

"This has both the fisheries tax and the fisheries landing tax going into the ASMI fund," Harris said, with half of the increase for each going into the general fund, and half going into the new fund. 

The new version also changes the fish tax structure, eliminating a separate tax plan for so-called developing fisheries, and moving those under the regular structure. Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins said that was in response to testimony calling the "developing fisheries" taxes a paperwork headache.

“This amendment eliminates that tax differential and also I guess is revenue positive on the whole," he said.

The committee heard plans from the state’s Department of Fish and Game and Department of Revenue to work on closing loopholes in fisheries taxes, including making sure that species are valued correctly, and that all fish that cross the docks are taxed.

The bill moved out of committee Tuesday, although most legislators signed no recommendation on the bill. It goes next to House Finance. A hearing there had not been scheduled as of April 6.