Under ACES, oil taxes were like taking all of a salmon run

Rex A. Rock Sr.,Aaron Schutt,Sophie Minich,Helvi Sandvik,Jason Metrokin,Gail Schubert

Many Alaskans may wonder why six of the largest Native corporations have united behind the effort to defeat Ballot Measure 1. Those who know little about us might assume it’s because some of the coalition members have business interests aligned with the oil industry. But that is too simple an answer. We did not enter into this conversation lightly.

As First Alaskans, our people have learned for generations to use and protect the resources that surround us. We have learned that to provide for future generations – for tomorrow’s children to have the same opportunities we enjoy – hard decisions must be made today.

We have listened carefully to the debate surrounding tax reform and weighed its benefits and drawbacks. We have also allowed ourselves the time to determine if the oil industry’s promises of increased investment were genuine. Some of our businesses are in the oil industry and some are not. What we have seen is an increase in investment into our oil industry, aimed at getting new oil in the pipeline. While that may be good for some of our businesses, it is good for all Alaskans. Our corporations collectively employ thousands of Alaskans and our employees support small Alaska businesses and the overall economy. New investments increase our opportunity to put new oil in the pipeline. Extending the life of our oil fields translates into continued contributions to our state treasury and the services the state provides to Alaskans for the long-term.

Even the harshest critics of SB 21 publicly acknowledged that ACES was broken. We watched as lawmakers worked for seven years to “fix” ACES while investment dried up and jobs by the hundreds disappeared. Experienced workers left Alaska to find opportunities in other oil-producing states, all of which saw an increase in oil production and investment due to high prices. Opponents of SB 21 would like us to believe that giving lawmakers more time to “fix” ACES is the answer. It makes no sense to vote to repeal a productive law like SB 21 to go back to ACES.

ACES clearly had Alaska on a path of no return. We can understand the attraction of high taxes and recognize the benefits that oil tax dollars provide. But we learned generations ago that you cannot take all the fish, harvest every bowhead or hunt all the caribou in a single season without suffering the consequences the following year. There is a time to reap and a time to sow. Alaska was doing nothing but reaping in the years of ACES, but nobody was sowing the seeds of reinvestment that would sustain us and sustain our children in the future.

With all that we have learned and witnessed for ourselves, we could no longer remain silent. There have been times in Alaska’s history when the First Alaskans have felt the need to speak with one voice for our future. For the leadership of Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, Doyon, Limited, Cook Inlet Region Incorporated, NANA Development Corporation, Bristol Bay Native Corporation and Bering Straits Native Corporation, now is such a time.

Like all Alaskans, our shareholders have been bombarded with misinformation on the impacts of SB 21 from those who believe the oil industry must invest in Alaska regardless of our tax policies. Simply put, as well-intentioned as they might have been, those people got it wrong seven years ago, and they still have it wrong today.

As the state’s largest private land owners, the long-term economic impact of these decisions will impact the development of our resources. Production of Native oil and gas resources needs to be competitive in order to share their potential with all Alaskans.

So we come to all Alaskans with a simple question: Who would vote to take away the opportunity to build a better future for their children? The answer is the same from the North Slope to Southeast. From Southcentral to Northwest Alaska. From the Interior to Western Alaska. The answer, simply, is no one. Join us in voting no on Ballot Measure 1.

Rex A. Rock Sr., ASRC President & CEO; Aaron Schutt, Doyon President & CEO; Sophie Minich, CIRI president and CEO; Helvi Sandvik, NANA Development Corporation president; Jason Metrokin, BBNC president and CEO; and Gail Schubert, Bering Straits Native Corp. president and CEO are among the founders of "No One On One," a coalition of six Alaska Native corporations which have joined together against Ballot Measure 1.

The views expressed here are the writers' own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.