AD Main Menu

Paul Jenkins: An oil state should treat the companies like partners, not enemies

Alaska is an oil state. It is not a fish state or an agriculture state or an industrial state. Most of us get that, even the left, which desperately wishes it were not so. Oil is not simply part of the economy; it is the economy. This would be a far different corner of the world if, instead of oil, we were forced to survive on collecting bat guano - or promises from Democrats.

What underscores all that is a recent study by the McDowell Group for the Alaska Oil and Gas Association packed with numbers and hard facts illustrating the nuts and bolts of our economy. It is eye-opening.

Since statehood in 1959, more than 88 percent of all state revenue from Alaska natural resource development has come from oil and gas, the report says. Nowadays, oil and gas provide 92 percent of the state's unrestricted general funds, or funds available for legislative appropriation. In fiscal 2013, that totaled $6.4 billion.

About 111,000 of the state's wage and salary jobs, of the 335,000 available, exist because of the industry. Alaska boasts $17.1 billion in wages and the industry provides $6.5 billion of that. In Anchorage alone, it generates 31,000 direct and indirect jobs and more than $2 billion in wages, the 48-page report concludes.

About $8 of every $9 in unrestricted general fund spending to support K-12 public education comes from oil and gas payments to Alaska, the report says. Picture it this way: Of the $9,100 every public school student receives in state aid, $8,170 comes from oil revenue.

In state government, just more than 10,210 positions - 44 percent of all positions - are underwritten by oil and gas revenues. At the University of Alaska, they pay for 39 percent of all department positions, 44 percent at the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, 45 percent at the Department of Health and Social Services and 81 percent at the Department of Corrections. They pay for 80 percent of Department of Public Safety positions, 77 percent of Education and Early Development, 62 percent of Law positions, and 50 percent of Natural Resources'.

The benefits go on and on. No income tax. No statewide sales tax. The Permanent Fund. Revenue Sharing. Local government revenue. Medicaid. Capital spending. The lion's share of our revenue, jobs and state positions are underwritten by oil and gas revenues.

None of that means we should give away the farm when dealing with the oil and gas guys, but we certainly should treat them as partners rather than the enemy.

•••

As Democrat Mark Begich tries to defend his pirated Senate seat by touting his "success" over the past six years, it turns out he does not have much to crow about. For that, he can blame Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who tells Begich how to vote as he gives his liberal super PAC "Put Alaska First" wads of campaign dough to support him.

A check of the Senate.gov site shows Begich never has received a roll-call vote on an amendment he has offered on the Senate floor. By contrast, Sen. Ted Stevens, in the minority in his first six years in office, got 14 roll call votes on amendments.

That Begich and other Democrats have been relegated to the sidelines has not gone unnoticed.

Alexander Bolton, in an article in "The Hill," says Begich and other vulnerable Dems are now red meat for the GOP because they so often vote the party line and have accomplished so little in their terms. When it comes to amending legislation or affecting national policy, they might as well have been in China during the past few years.

Begich has voted with Obama and Reid about 97 percent of the time and that has become a campaign staple for opponents in his race for re-election. Former Attorney General Dan Sullivan, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and Joe Miller are facing off in the August GOP primary election for the Republican nomination to challenge him.

A Begich aide told Bolton his boss, who still dodges telling Alaskans his stand on the biggest fiscal question facing the state, did manage to ban "frankenfish," or farm-raised salmon genetically engineered to grow quickly. There were a few other modest accomplishments.

With pals like Reid ....

Paul Jenkins is editor of the AnchorageDailyPlanet.com, a division of Porcaro Communications, which now is placing media for the Mead Treadwell campaign.



By PAUL JENKINS