As the August primary approaches, we are faced with a choice that will ultimately decide the economic trajectory of our state. Economists, industry, academics and elected officials -- past and present -- have all weighed in on what has become a very difficult and complicated conversation on the topic of oil tax reform. Arguments on both sides of the issue are readily available. The facts have been laid out in forums, debates and countless articles in these very pages. All that’s left is for the Alaska people to cast their vote and decide the future of SB 21.
I’ll be up front and straight to the point. On Aug. 19, I will join thousands of concerned Alaskans in voting no on 1 in order to take appropriate and necessary steps to make our state competitive, encourage new investments, provide more well-paying jobs for our work force and boost our local economies.
When Alaskans first sent me to Congress, the United States was in a precarious situation. After years of growing dependence on foreign oil, our supplies shuttered and economies suffered. For the first time in years, energy security entered the minds of everyday Americans. What followed was a series of steps to ensure America no longer let policies beyond our borders dictate the way we operated, and Alaska stood at the forefront.
Rather than sit idle in the decision-making, we fought tirelessly to pave the way to develop our energy-rich North Slope and share in its tremendous wealth and opportunity. With the support of thousands, Sens. Ted Stevens, Mike Gravel and I worked the halls of Congress to ensure the trans-Alaska pipeline, our economic lifeline, became reality.
What we saw was undeniable. Materials, services and infrastructure needed for oil production created hundreds of thousands of manufacturing and high-skilled service jobs in Alaska and across the nation. Our communities bustled and our markets boomed as billions in investments spread to our local economies and into the hands of hardworking Alaskans.
With opportunity came growth, as thousands of Americans migrated north to become part of the Alaska landscape. Property values increased, businesses sprouted, our universities expanded and individuals shared in the prosperity and benefit of our friendly economic climate. And for years we embraced our successes and recognized the partnerships we made with the many industries tasked with responsibly extracting our resources and servicing our needs.
Much like Alaskans decided our future then, today we are faced with a similar choice. After years of economic stagnation and declining production under ACES, our workers and industry began to look elsewhere. Not only was Alaska quickly falling behind states like North Dakota and California in terms of energy production, our vital Alaska lifeline -- the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System -- suffered as new developments at home were placed on hold in lieu of projects in more favorable fiscal environments, located near miles of existing infrastructure, pipeline and refineries.
This economic downturn begged the question. How could our state compete on a national scale as emerging markets crippled us at home? Countless Alaskans recognized that without action, our energy producing state was in freefall and our economy was in jeopardy. Doing nothing would have been both irresponsible and shortsighted, and out of necessity, not special interest, the More Alaska Production Act (SB 21) was written and passed into law.
Simply put, SB 21 reformed our oil tax system in a way that drives new investments and provides a stable economic climate for our many industries. By recognizing the importance of simplifying our tax code and leveling the playing field, Alaskans have chosen to invest in our future and ourselves -- much like we did many years ago.
With new investments and projects already coming off the shelves, the first chapter of SB 21 has already shown great promise. I look forward to seeing the many improvements and economic resurgence under a new tax structure that adapts to the needs of our people and our state. Contrary to what some have said, this is not about special interests, this is about Alaska interests. This is about our families, our friends, our neighbors and a stable economic landscape for all our people. I encourage you to vote no on 1 on Aug. 19.
U.S. Rep. Don Young was elected in 2012 to his 21st term as Alaska’s only delegate to the United States House of Representatives.
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.