Compass: Knowles to Moore: ‘Raid on the Permanent Fund? Ouch!'

I knew I was in trouble when I read Shannyn Moore's Sunday column and she started with "I love (Tony Knowles) too."

I didn't have to read much further before I was hammered for the ultimate Alaska political blunder of "pushing a raid on the Permanent Fund in 1999." Ouch! On top of that, then-Alaska Rep. Lisa Murkowski and House Speaker Gail Phillips were called out for joining this "raid." The column then reveals that we are now linked together, again, by our shared opinion 15 years later of voting no on the oil tax referendum. Hmmmm. Does that sound like a conspiracy?

The "raid" was a resolution passed by the Legislature in 1999 that put a state fiscal plan to a vote of the people. Because of oil prices plummeting to $9 a barrel, we faced a fiscal crisis costing the treasury a billion dollars a year and threatening to soon exhaust our reserves. The negotiated fiscal plan contained many budget-balancing provisions, including one that used a limited amount of Permanent Fund earnings.

What Shannyn didn't mention is that the resolution passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority of 30 Republicans and 14 Democrats. Fortunately, when the vote was taken six months later, the price of oil had more than doubled and the budget was back in balance.

Another part of the 1999 "conspiracy" revealed by Shannyn was that the oil industry's pledges to increase oil production were "wild promises" that were never fulfilled. Here, again, the history tells a far different story. Thanks to overwhelming bipartisan support for new leases such as Northstar and developing new fields such as Alpine, North Slope oil production experienced the largest increase in over a decade and today remains the last time production increased.

We can avoid a repeat of the fiscal crisis of 1999 and return to the optimism and increased oil production that occurred during those years. It is beginning to happen with over $4 billion of new oil investment now underway. That is why I will vote no on the referendum that would return to a tax regime that will reverse these trends. This vote is about jobs and building a more stable and sustainable economy that, by the way, will also help protect the Permanent Fund.

Oh, yes, one note of thanks to Shannyn. My late mother would have been surprised and very pleased at being labeled a "petroleum powerhouse."

Tony Knowles is a Democrat who served two terms as Alaska's governor. He lives in Anchorage.