In the spring of 2013, I had the pleasure and opportunity to be the youngest legislator to vote in favor of SB 21, the bill to reform our oil tax structure. As a younger person, with a young family, I was signaling that I was totally and completely all in for Alaska’s future. I want to explain that choice, and encourage fellow Alaskans to join me in voting no on Ballot Measure 1.
I understand the numbers and statistics. I have an MBA, so I get how you can spin numbers to say many things. Needless to say, I believe the numbers show SB 21 is Alaska’s $10 billion investment opportunity but my decision was not based on statistics alone. I voted for SB 21 because, like most Alaskans, many aspects of my life growing up were impacted by oil and gas development in Alaska. My mother worked in the oil patch in human resources for 35 years. Our family dinner conversations during certain times in my youth included talks of layoffs and restructures because the price of oil was low and profits were suffering. Hardworking Alaskans lost their jobs or were relocated. In the oil patch, that was the reality in the 1980s and 1990s, and I saw it first-hand. Maybe because times have been better we have forgotten what it was like to hear about mass layoffs in Alaska but they were real.
My dad also had a job dependent on oil, even though it was not in the industry. He worked for IBM fixing computer mainframes and printers for banks, oil companies, service companies and even the state. As a kid, I remember the night the state would print our PFD checks, because my dad would be right there in the room making sure nothing went wrong. We would go visit in the evening, and I would get to see the checks whizzing past as the oil wealth of Alaska was shared with all of us Alaskans. It was a tangible example of the benefits of oil to our state.
When, as an adult, I decided to turn down multiple job offers Outside, I had to ask myself what I was going to do to prevent those days of job losses and threats of job losses from returning to Alaska. How did I see the future shaping for my kids? I knew I did not want it to include the same difficult conversations my parents had with me. I decided I was all in and ran for elected office, stating clearly my intent to see positive change and stability in our oil tax structure. Now we are there, and the investment is starting to return. I do not see oil as our past like so many want to paint it but as an important aspect of our future.
I am also willing to give this new law time to work. After years of debate and discussion around changing our oil tax, I feel like we owe it to the people of Alaska to see if this law works. If the oil companies don’t respond in a positive way, I will be among the first legislators to say we need to change. But after only eight months, how can we say we have given it a fair shake when the old law got seven years? I don’t see the urgency to reject a law that has already shown such good signs of putting more oil in the pipeline.
Are you all in for Alaska’s future? Are you willing to let go of this dream that any short-term gains will stay permanent and instead make way for investment into our future? That $60 billion gas line with more job opportunities is closer than ever before but it does not happen if we go back to ACES. I ask you to please consider the future when you vote on Tuesday, and join me and thousands of other Alaskans by voting no on Ballot Measure 1.
Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-East Anchorage, leads the Alaska House of Representatives majority.
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.