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Ice cream can't make these plans palatable

Shannyn Moore

If you're selling something great, you don't need high-pressure salesmen. People will break down your door to buy it. "You don't have to shove an ice cream cone down a kid's throat," as Pop often noted.

This week, Gov. Sean Parnell called the Legislature back for a "special" session. It reminded me of Inigo Montoya in "The Princess Bride": "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Over the last six years, there have been almost as many special sessions as unspecial ones.

The focus of this session is an epic struggle between wealthy oil companies and average workaday Alaskans. The two main items on the agenda are a multibillion-dollar tax break for the most profitable corporations in the history of civilization, and a plan to have the state essentially finance a gas pipeline for the benefit of the most profitable corporations in the history of civilization.

You may think that because Alaskans pay some of the highest gasoline and heating prices in the nation, our governor and legislators would be focused on helping us with crushing energy bills. But no, let them burn tundra!

A special session to give back billions to the oil industry? Now there's a pressing issue. Where did we leave the key to the state treasury?

Our former Conoco Phillips lobbyist and Exxon attorney-turned-governor, Sean Parnell, has been pushing a $2 billion-a-year giveaway, no strings attached, to his former employers. A critical mission, you see, not only because it will help the governor into his next job but because if we don't, the Alaska economy will fall down dead.

I almost felt sorry for Parnell's revenue commissioner, Bryan Butcher, during his testimony before the Senate Resource Committee this last week. He was the guy who brought a book about knife fighting to a gunfight. He couldn't answer basic questions, or he offered incoherent and contradictory answers. Senators were frustrated by what Sen. Lesil McGuire, no critic of the oil industry, described as "a half-baked bill."

The senators wanted "facts" and "analysis" to justify the governor's giveaway. Who could have anticipated questions like: "What fields, developments or projects are not profitable under our current oil tax structure?"

When Parnell's director of oil and gas said he wasn't aware of any, those darn senators asked more head-scratchers, like: "What is the rate of return and net present value of current projects under ACES?"

When the commissioner of revenue couldn't answer that one, the senators tried a more philosophical approach: "Why should we be giving the oil industry billions in tax breaks with no strings attached? Shouldn't we tie any tax breaks to increased production?"

The governor and oil industry responded by accusing the Senate of being anti-business, of failing to understand how the real world works. Apparently, the Senate hates America.

As for the gas pipeline bill, those crazy Senate and House Democrats were up to no good there too. When some pointed out that Parnell's gas line was really just a multibillion-dollar subsidy for Conoco Phillips to export gas to Japan, while heating costs for Southcentral residents double or triple, there was, happily, someone there to correct them. That was Republican Rep. Mike Hawker, whose wife happens to collect a six-figure salary from Conoco Phillips.

So let me sum up: The oil companies are helping Alaskans govern themselves by showering some of our leaders with campaign contributions, which, surprisingly, have no effect on their decisions but result in creative problem-solving like:

Solution to child hunger -- tax breaks for oil companies. Solution to bad schools -- tax breaks for oil companies. Solution to increasing crime -- tax breaks for oil companies.

I could explain the logic of all this but you undoubtedly would not get it.

If Parnell's proposals were good for Alaskans, lawmakers in Juneau would be lining up to claim the ideas as their own. Instead, what I see is the governor chasing us all down, an ice cream cone in his fist.

Shannyn Moore can be heard weekdays from 6 to 9 p.m. on KOAN 1020 AM and 95.5 FM radio. Her weekly TV show airs Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. statewide on ABC affiliates KYUR in Anchorage, KATN in Fairbanks and KJUD in Juneau.


Shannyn Moore
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