A cardboard cutout greets customers at the Matanuska Brew Pub in downtown Anchorage, with the face of Assemblyman Forrest Dunbar and a reminder that the 5 percent tax on the beer customers are about to consume is thanks to the man now running for mayor. Evidently the cardboard cutout is set to appear in other locations this week.
That may not be entirely fair. Dunbar introduced the beverage tax, got the Assembly to approve it for the ballot, but Anchorage voters approved it in April of 2020, through Proposition 13, authorizing a 5% sales tax on the retail.
The revenue is to pay for police, first responders, and criminal justice personnel, addressing child abuse, sexual assault, and domestic violence, and programs related to substance misuse treatment and prevention, mental and behavioral health, and homelessness. The proposition passed 51-49.
Just one year earlier, a similar measure had failed with voters. Proposition 9 would have levied a 5 percent tax on alcoholic beverage retail sales. It would have dedicated the tax revenue to substance misuse prevention and treatment, behavioral health, homelessness services, and vagrant campsite removal.
The difference between the two measures was small, but the marketing effort to get Prop. 13 passed was based on extensive voter research by proponents of the tax, to dial in the message for Anchorage likely voters.
The tax goes into effect on Feb. 1, 2021.