Billionaire Bob on Income Taxes: NIMBY Again


Alaska’s wealthiest man is engaged in a grass roots campaign against an Alaska state income tax. It’s NIMBY again.

NIMBY is Not In My Back Yard; it has two senses. The first is something that might be a good idea but they don’t want it in their back yard. As in, “Yes, a gold mine would be good for the economy, but I don’t want it in my back yard.” It also has a second meaning: people who advocate some proposal (e.g., budget cuts, tax increases, layoffs, immigration or energy conservation) but oppose implementing it in a way that might affect their lives or require any sacrifice on their part.

Bob Gillam was strongly opposed to the Pebble Mine project, not necessarily because a huge mine, with megatons of waste is just a bad idea, but simply because it was too near his recreational palace cabin. He was on the right side of the issue, for the wrong reason: NIMBY, in the first sense.

Now, as the State of Alaska very slowly fumbles toward a solution to its fiscal crisis, Gillam has launched his one man campaign to keep the State of Alaska from implementing an income tax as a part of that solution. NIMBY, in the second sense. Alaska’s richest man opposes an income tax. Raise your hand if you are surprised. The reasons he offers for opposing an income tax are mostly lies alternative facts.

Gillam claims Alaska’s budget has “more than doubled.” No. State government spending has fallen to the level it was at ten years ago, without adjustment for inflation, and the Governor’s budget calls for still more cuts.

Gillam claims income taxes are linked to economic decline in other states. No. As just one example, three of the five states with the highest gross state product – California, New York and Illinois – have state income taxes. California’s gross state product is $2.5 trillion, more than half again Texas’s, at $1.8 trillion. And is growing, not declining/

Gillam has even threatened to take all his marbles and go home if Alaska adopts a state income tax. The Alaska Dispatch News quotes Alaska Republican Party Chairman Tuckerman Babcock as hearing Gillam say “he could shelter his income in a tax haven if Alaska implemented income taxes.” Fine. An income tax is the least inequitable form of tax. But when a very rich man complains about an income tax, by definition you don’t need to listen.

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