Dingman: Alaskans will choose state's future, but election is not harbinger of doom

Mike Dingman
OPINION: Columnist Mike Dingman argues that no matter what Alaskans have decided about their votes this primary election, they should at least take the time to vote and have a say in Alaska's future. Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News

You do realize, of course, that the oil tax referendum is on the ballot in just a few days, right? The primary is coming up Tuesday.

People may not enjoy seeing all of the flyers in the mail, literature left on their doors, political ads on the television and radio or the flurry of sign-waving around town. However, elections like this put, front-and-center, the issues surrounding Alaska and foster discussion about who we want to be as a state, now was well as in the near and distant future.

In just six days some of you will be tasked with determining the Republican challenger for Mark Begich’s seat in the U.S. Senate, and all of you will be tasked with shaping Alaska’s oil tax policy and deciding a slew of local legislative races. Don’t be fooled -- while some races are seemingly more important than others, they will all help shape our future as a state in one way or another.

In the sole ballot measure on the August ballot, you’ll be asked to decide, as a populace, what Alaska’s oil tax policy should be. I have made my position on this clear -- I don’t believe the public as a whole should be making policy decisions for the state, particularly those as complex as the oil tax structure. However, you have been given this chore.

I have used this column recently to express my opinion that we should vote no on Ballot Measure 1. The policymakers, the men and women charged with this duty and who know this issue intimately, have chosen a new direction and I believe that we should respect that decision.

There is a central question in the oil tax debate: Do you believe that oil production will continue to decline, regardless of the oil tax structure? If you do, then I encourage you to vote yes on Ballot Measure 1. A yes vote would return us to the tax structure known as ACES, which would provide more revenue to the state at higher oil prices. If decline is inevitable, then we should get the most money we can for the remaining product we have.

However, if you believe decline is not inevitable, I would encourage you to listen to the other side, with new eyes and an open mind, at least once before blackening a circle on your ballot. Similarly, if you’re voting no along with me, I urge you to read the op-ed that Sen. Bill Wielechowski wrote in Alaska Dispatch News on Aug. 7 or reach out to the senator and ask him to explain his position to you. There is no better advocate for the Vote Yes Repeal the Giveaway group's position.

If, somehow, you are still undecided on this measure, then I would encourage you to watch the Alaska Common Ground forum on the topic. That forum is different than most because it was two hours long, and allowed a significant amount of time for the answers to questions and tasked the spokespeople for each side with posing questions to one another. A recording of the forum can be found online at www.akcommonground.org.

Many commentators, talk-show radio hosts and opinion columnists will preach how important it is that you agree with them. They will tell you that the issue is “critically important,” that we are at a “crossroads” and that the sky will fall if you don’t side with them.

It won’t.

We likely won’t find our doom in the voting booth, regardless of what we do. However, the future of Alaska will be formed based on your decisions in the voting booth -- all of your decisions. From the very important and complex issue of oil tax reform to the seemingly innocuous decisions in your local primaries -- they all will have some sort of impact on Alaska’s future. Both sides have painted this as a crucial vote that will determine if Alaska thrives or crumbles into the ocean. It will not, we will simply decide what values we want to carry forward as a state.

The turnout in primary elections is generally very low. There is a chance that only 20 to 30 percent of you will make your way to a voting booth between now and Tuesday. However, with this being a very important election featuring oil tax reform, the U.S. Senate primary and other statewide primaries, I am hopeful we will see a record turnout.

It’s your time to shape Alaska’s future -- regardless of which ovals you want to fill on Tuesday, make sure you make it to the polls and have a say in the future of Alaska.

Mike Dingman is a fifth-generation Alaskan born and raised in Anchorage. He is a former UAA student body president and has worked, studied and volunteered in Alaska politics since the late 1990s. Email, michaeldingman(at)gmail.com.

The views expressed here are the writer's 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.