Paul Jenkins: Government, unions take us for a ride under ACES

commentBy XxxxOctober 13, 2012 

Alaskans are being played for suckers by Democrats, labor and a few of their Republican chums.

A union front, the Putting Alaskans First Committee, is dedicated to saving the state Senate Bipartisan Working Group and Alaska's Clear and Equitable Share oil tax -- even at the expense of Alaska's future.

It has raised at least $284,000 for a propaganda effort to elect or re-elect senators who will bend to the notion of government stealing about $2 billion a year too much from the oil industry every year -- just because it can.

You might ask yourself: Golly, was all that committee money contributed by ordinary Alaskans fretting about an economy staring at a fiscal meltdown? Get real. It is a union gig. Piles of dough -- $134,000 -- came from the Alaska AFL-CIO. The rest came from outfits such as the IBEW PAC, the ASEA/AFSCME Local 52 PAC, NEA-Alaska PACE and an individual, B.J. Gottstein.

ACES is bad. Its progressive levy contributes to a 90 percent marginal tax rate for the industry at higher oil prices and it has extorted billions from North Slope industry's shareholders. Those evil investors include, by the way, the nice lady next door and the Alaska Permanent Fund.

Those excess billions are what the unions and their Senate pals are scrambling to hang onto. The cash means fat, $3 billion capital budgets. Bigger government. More spending. Government profit. More union jobs. More union dues. More dough for union bosses. An absolute dream.

How did this happen? The Senate split 10-10 a few years back and the coalition formed to stroke egos and divide power. It attracted 10 Democrats and six Republicans -- who should have known better. Heroes, the Democrats call them. Future Alaskans may call them something less kind.

Ostensibly, the GOP was in charge. In practice, not so much. The Senate group killed Alaska's Coastal Zone Management Program and blocked a bullet gas line. It did what Democrats do.

Worse, it blocked needed fixes for ACES' predatory taxing provisions although the levy clearly is bad for Alaska. Any dope can see that. Because of ACES, investment by major companies for new North Slope oil is off. Oil production - Alaska's economic lifeblood -- is sliding. Throughput in the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, which pays for 90 cents of every dollar Alaska spends -- is slipping by 6 percent annually. Some are predicting pipeline problems soon because of reduced flow. Industry investment and jobs are heading to places such as North Dakota where taxes actually make sense. The economy there, by the way, is sizzling.

Government and unions are the only winners with ACES. Others -- nonunion workers, businesses, vendors and others depending on industry spending -- are the big losers, but they are catching on.

Two GOP members of the bipartisan coalition were dumped in the August primary: Sen. Linda Menard of Wasilla and veteran Sen. Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai. Two other Republicans have disavowed the coalition. At least six face stiff challenges. Alaska Public Offices Commission spending reports show the coalition members targeted for labor's help include Democratic Sens. Bettye Davis of Anchorage; Joe Paskvan of Fairbanks; Joe Thomas of Fairbanks; and, Bill Wielechowski of Anchorage.

The GOP hopes to crater the bipartisan group, clearing a path for ACES fixes in the next legislative session. The Left is hanging on like grim death.

To do that, Putting Alaska First is not above outright fibbery, telling you, for instance, the oil being produced on the North Slope is yours; that you would be shorted if ACES were fixed; that a fair tax is a "giveaway"; that the oil industry is the enemy.

The oil is not yours. Alaska sold it decades ago. The industry pays Alaska a royalty share of 12 percent, give or take. A slice goes into the Permanent Fund. That is your cut. That was the deal. Alaskans' share is the $40 billion or so in the Permanent Fund -- and its annual dividend.

Alaska also taxes the industry, now excessively through ACES. You do not get those revenues. Government pockets them and takes care of its union pals and its favorite projects and programs. "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others," George Orwell tells us. Or government socks away the money, classifying it as "excess revenue."

Labor's propaganda campaign is simply raw greed -- and terrible for Alaska.

Any dope can see that.

Paul Jenkins is editor of the AnchorageDailyPlanet.com.

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