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Vic Fischer: Alaskans can craft a better oil tax deal than SB 21

Vic Fischer
OPINION: I’m voting YES on Tuesday to repeal SB21 out of optimism that Alaskans can come together and craft a better deal, far better than the bad deal imposed by the politicians. Loren Holmes photo

I’m voting YES on Tuesday to repeal Senate Bill 21. A yes vote means we can come together as Alaskans and craft a better deal, far better than the bad deal imposed by the politicians.

A no vote will freeze for many years the giveaway under which Alaskans do not receive a fair share for the oil that’s produced. It results in pumping out faster the oil that would be produced anyway, and in less support for finding more new oil fields.

I think that Alaskans should vote yes to show that they will not be bamboozled by endless TV, radio and print ads paid for by BP, ConocoPhillips, and Exxon. Do you really think their main purpose is to pursue what’s good for Alaska’s families?

SB 21 is a giveaway because legislators gave away billions of dollars without requiring that the oil industry spend any of the tax break money in Alaska. There is no requirement to:

• Spend tax cut money in Alaska
• Use it to explore for more oil in Alaska
• Use it to produce more oil in Alaska, or
• Use it to hire more Alaskans

That’s why I think SB 21 is such a bad, bad deal for Alaska people and businesses.

We can and must fix these and other deficiencies of SB 21. A yes vote will give Alaskans an opportunity for a fresh start, to come together, and to make it right. I know we can do that.

We all know that oil is important to Alaska, and oil and gas corporations should certainly make a profit when they produce our oil. But since it is our oil, we Alaskans have to be concerned about selling it at a fair price.

We are partners with North Slope producers, and each partner deserves a fair share. That is the way to achieve long-term stability.

Our Vote Yes effort has been a campaign of the people. Fifty thousand fellow Alaskans signed up to give you a chance to vote yes, to reject the bad law that is SB 21.

Close to 1000 individual Alaskans donated money to our campaign. That compares to only eight -- yes, only eight -- individuals who gave to No on 1. Our opponents’ media purchases were funded by some of the largest petroleum corporations in the world.

Although divided now, I know we Alaskans can come together and find common ground.

I learned this from my long-ago experience of working for Alaska statehood and serving as a delegate in the 1955-56 constitutional convention. There I learned that people of differing political, philosophical and other varying persuasions could always resolve their differences in pursuit of common goals. Even service in the state Senate during the 1980s did not totally undermine my belief that we can work together on important issues.

The old law, ACES, helped bring smaller, independent companies to find new oil resources on the North Slope.

As just reported, some of the new companies that were attracted to Alaska under ACES made important discoveries and are now on the verge of becoming producers. I call that success!

SB 21 undid some of these most important elements of ACES and massively increased the share of oil production benefits to the three major oil corporations.

These SB 21 changes are patently unfair to Alaskans. Deficits projected by the Parnell administration show that within a few years we’ll be so broke that loss of PFD, imposition of income taxes, and higher property taxes will face Alaska and schools, public safety and roads will suffer.

This needn’t be. We Alaskans can take the best of ACES and of SB 21 and create a way to bring in more independents that will explore for new oil fields, and we can reasonably incentivize production as deemed appropriate.

Let’s come together and assure that a fair share of the benefits from oil production stays in Alaska, strengthens our whole economy, and continues to provide jobs for Alaskans.

Above all, don’t be intimidated by threats or forecasts of doom. Have faith that we Alaskans can get together and do it right.

When you vote in the secrecy of the ballot booth, VOTE YES, for Alaska!

Vic Fischer is chair of the Vote Yes -- Repeal the Giveaway campaign. He was a delegate to Alaska’s Constitutional Convention and later served in the Legislature. He is director emeritus of UAA’s Institute of Social and Economic Research.

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.