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Paul Jenkins: Can't blame Art Hackney for rotten referendum

Paul Jenkins

The end of the world is upon us. Honest. Blame Art Hackney He is an anti-Pebble shill, a political mouthpiece, a destroyer of, as one breathless, leftist hack lamented, "the bedrock of democracy" and a "Republican hatchet man."

Oh, and he was close to Bill Allen. Oh, my.

His cardinal sin nowadays is trying to get Alaskans to think before signing a petition that, if successful, would put on next year's ballot the dumbest question imaginable. If voters approve, it would roll back the Legislature's tax reform aimed at spurring North Slope production and investment. Instead of legal mumbo-jumbo, the ballot language should read: "Do you want to go broke? Yes. No"

Hackney is paying -- at his own expense, he says -- folks to shadow paid signature-gatherers and counter tax repeal arguments. The idea, and Hackney is not alone in pushing it, is to get people to think about what they are signing. The shadows also point out that the gullible can have their signatures scratched from the petition.

Our friends on the Left are steaming Direct democracy, it seems, is only a nifty thing when it does not muss their hair.

While Hackney's tactics are unorthodox, his goal is valid. After all, who needs another 18 months of industry uncertainty as North Slope investment and production slide? Why wait until next year's primary to settle the question? But he is wasting his time and money. My guess is a rollback question -- the wrong one, of course -- will be on the ballot. Why? There is a sizable pool of Alaskans who are, to put a shine on it, myopic, umbrageous and absolutely willing to sink this state to assuage their loathing of the oil industry.

They are mean-spirited back-biters. Many of them comment here. They love to hate. They hate politicians. They hate government. They hate everything. They hate each other. But they save their big hate for the oil industry, which they are positive bleeds them, steals from them, cheats them. Even some normally rational people harbor a wisp of anger toward Big Oil. Go figure.

The truth is, Alaska is an oil state. Production of North Slope crude -- the state's primary revenue source -- is declining. The state needs more to support its prodigious spending appetite. That takes cash. Boatloads of cash. The state, through its predatory Alaska's Clear and Equitable Share oil tax -- which contributed, at high oil prices, to a marginal tax rate of more than 90 percent -- made investing here for new oil imbecilic. That whooshing sound is investment dollars headed elsewhere. A tax cut could fix that, but the notion drives some wild.

A friend says reducing taxes to spur North Slope production and Alaska's economy over the long haul is like eating broccoli: You know you should; you know it is good for you in the long term, but you just do not want to.

Repeal proponents, the same folks who fought for years to keep ACES despite its obvious and deleterious effects on Alaska, want money now, right now, to support big government and its profligate spending -- spending they ultimately prosper from. Cutting taxes interferes with their take and is, in their self-serving view, a "giveaway." If the federal government reduced your tax load would you call it a giveaway or just good sense?

Face it, ACES was not the smartest thing the Legislature ever did. Look at the scorecard. North Slope production is declining -- this year costing Alaska hundreds of millions in revenues -- and investment for new oil is off. Throughput in the trans-Alaska oil pipeline is drying up at 6 percent a year. Add to that the volatility of oil prices and the fiscal tightrope Alaska is walking gets pretty shaky.

Most Alaskans suspect all that. The vast majority, I predict, will oppose the repeal once they know the facts. Somebody will have to work -- and work hard -- at getting those facts out there.

The saddest part of the repeal effort is that those who support the idiocy have no real plan, no idea of what they would do to improve Alaska's economy if they got their way. What is at risk is new and existing jobs, long-term budget stability and the threat of a new state income or sales tax.

Repeal advocates have put their greed and hatred ahead of Alaska's future. We cannot possibly blame Hackney for that.

Shame on them.

Paul Jenkins is editor of the AnchorageDailyPlanet.com.


Paul Jenkins
commentBy PAUL JENKINS