Point-Counterpoint: State Senate candidate Berta Gardner on oil taxes, Pebble and substance abuse treatment

Many people have asked me how I make decisions on important and highly complex issues. For me, it all comes down to the core values Alaskans hold dear - our independence, our need for financial security, our love for our communities, and a sustainable and continuing development of our state. For me, relying on these values is a good lens for considering all issues that come before policy makers.

Oil taxes and the Pebble Mine are, understandably, contentious issues. Dealing with non-renewable and very valuable resources they represent both jobs and revenue to us. The Alaska question is not whether we should extract our mineral and petroleum resources, but rather how, when, and why we extract them.


Oil generates about 90 percent of the state's revenues, keeping the lights on, the schools open, the roads clear of snow and Alaskans safe.

So, for oil, the time is always now. What's important is why are we extracting our oil? Our model constitution says it must be for the greatest benefit to Alaskans, and my values tell me that means resource development should result in more independence and financial security; foster constant progress in our young state, benefit every Alaska community.

To continue to accomplish all this we have to reverse the decline in oil production. The governor asked the major oil companies how to achieve it, and they told him to give them a $2 billion per year tax break. The majors are not in the business of looking for new oil to produce - we rely on the smaller independents for that. So, if the majors do increase production from current sources, it might be considered as simply taking us to crisis at a faster rate, solving nothing.

We're offering incentives to the explorers, and they are exploring like never before. When they find oil, and if the majors start producing new sources like shale oil and heavy oil, I'll be happy to talk about tax adjustments. We should reward our valuable allies in the oil industry, but not for work they are contractually obligated to do and are planning to do anyway.


The same goes for Pebble. I'm in favor of mining, but only when I'm confident the project won't endanger our critical and renewable fisheries resources. If we manage our fisheries wisely, they will be a gift we can hand down to our children for generations. Mining is an important part of Alaska's business portfolio, but minerals run out, and nothing is more important than the Alaskan way of life. Period.


Finally I want to talk about an Alaskan tragedy and a significant cost driver to budgets across the board. This is the problem of alcohol abuse and its consequence of destroyed lives and families, of domestic violence, child abuse, carnage on our roads, burgeoning costs to social services networks, to the criminal justice, correctional, and educational systems.

Substance abuse treatment works, though it may take multiple attempts. I believe that it is humane and cost effective to ensure that any Alaskan who recognizes an alcohol problem and who seeks help, has prompt access to a high quality assessment and to recommended treatment, whether detox, residential or outpatient, at a cost the patient can afford. This kind of commitment from the state would promote the safety and well-being of all our citizens and be a benefit to everyone.

State Rep. Berta Gardner is the Democratic candidate for Senate District H in Anchorage, which includes Spenard, the U-Med district and Midtown.