ANCHORAGE (KTUU) Supporters of The Fair Share Act, a ballot initiative that would raise production taxes on Alaska’s 3 biggest oil fields, recently submitted 44,624 signatures to the Division of Elections to get it on a ballot.
“We have gathered 44,624 Alaskan voters who are tired, and want us to change the tax giveaway in the State of Alaska,” said Jane Angvik, one of the initiative’s co-sponsors.
The Division of Elections now has 60 days to certify that at least 28,501 of those signatures are valid. Assuming they are, the initiative will continue on its way to the ballot. However, there are a few other things in its way.
“Under state law, under the constitution, if the legislature has an opportunity to pass a bill that’s substantially similar to the initiative, they can take it off the ballot,” said Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage.
Wieleschowski recently pre-filed a very similar piece of legislation.
“It matches,” he said. “We tried to match the initiative as close as we could.”
He filed it partially in response to criticisms of the initiative that a complex issue like oil tax reform should be done through the legislative process.
“If we’re going to do any changes to oil taxes, we should be going through the legislative process, which gives multiple hearings, expert testimony, the ability to amend, and to deal with this complex issue in a thoughtful way,” said Bill Popp, President and CEO of the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation.
Popp is also a co-chair of Onealaska, a group formed to oppose the initiative. In addition to the process, Popp also takes issue with the timing.
“Trying to change oil taxes and raise them this significantly in this new, more competitive marketplace, is going to make Alaska less competitive, and will drive away investment," he said.
The initiative would substantially raise oil taxes on the 3 fields, but Robin Brena, chair of Vote Yes for Alaska’s Fair Share, says oil companies would still be getting a great deal at those fields, and a much better deal than they have historically.
“If the Fair Share Act Passes, we will still get less than our average for the last 40 years,” he said.
But Popp said the problem is the message the change would send.
"Over the last 15 years, there have been seven or eight attempts, both successful and unsuccessful, in changing Alaska's oil policies,” he said. “That's every other year. We are not sending a signal of stability in our state to the investment world."
But whether or not Alaska sends that signal now is up to the legislature, and the people.
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