A new group is adding its voice to the debate over tax breaks for oil companies. The Make Alaska Competitive Coalition says something needs to be done to encourage North Slope exploration. The group says Alaska’s oil and gas production tax known as ACES, which stands for Alaska’s Clear and Equitable Share, isn't working.
The Make Alaska Competetive Coalition touts itself as not being backed by the oil industry, but rather by prominent business and community leaders.
The group held a campaign kickoff Wednesday, and those in attendance were weighing in on Gov. Sean Parnell's plan to provide more incentives to the oil industry for new development.
The group says the state needs to do even more to encourage the oil industry to invest in Alaska, as opposed to other states like Texas and North Dakota. It says with the pipeline currently only one-third full, the writing is on the wall.
“No flow means no dough,” said Mark Hamilton, a member of the newly-formed group and former University of Alaska system president.
Even after Parnell announced a proposal to change the ACES tax structure, making it more lucrative to oil companies, people supporting the Make Alaska Competitive Coalition say it may not be enough.
“It's definitely a start, people are talking about it,” said Lynn Johnson, president of Dowland-Bach. “In the legislative session last year, you’d mention ACES and reducing taxes on the oil industry and you got kind of blank stares.”
But in Juneau this week, state Democrats have plenty of opposition to changes in ACES tax structure saying it would cost the state $2 billion a year -- calling it a giveaway to the oil companies.
“If you at home were asked to make a $2,000 a year decision, you'd want to know whether it was a good decision, whether it was good or not for your family,” said Rep. Beth Kertulla (D-Juneau).
Democrats say they want commitments from oil companies that the extra money will mean more jobs for Alaskans.
“We've heard from the administration on the gas line needing to be filled,” said Rep. Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks), “but we haven’t heard how this bill gets us to getting more Alaskan jobs, getting the pipeline filled.”
But with the new coalition now entering the discussion, the debate over ACES is about to become even louder.