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Defeat of oil tax referendum puts Alaska in win-win territory

T.J. Presely,Nick Moe
OPINION: The burden of proof that SB21 is the right plan for Alaska is on the oil industry now, and the defeat of the referendum puts Alaska in a win-win situation. Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News

After the election on Ballot Measure 1, Alaskans are in a win-win situation.

Congratulations to the no campaign on their hard-fought victory. Fifty-two percent of Alaskans have chosen to keep Senate Bill 21 in place. Now all we need to do is work together to ensure that this tax structure is as successful as possible.

What is the good news for Alaskans?

The oil industry is now on record promising big job growth, large increases in oil production, and bulging state budgets. These are strong promises the Big Three oil producers refused to make in Juneau last year when SB 21 was narrowly passed by the Alaska Senate.

Few issues have divided our state like Ballot Measure 1. It has been difficult to have friends and family members on opposite sides of this issue. The reason we are so optimistic is because now, we are all on the same team. The ball is in the industry’s court to deliver on their promises to everyone who voted, not just to the yes voters. The burden of proof is on them, and this puts Alaska in a win-win situation.

If the industry fails to meet our high standards, there are effective democratic tools in place to hold them accountable. The biggest tool is the Nov. 4 general election.

If we fail to see improvements in production and revenue, then our lawmakers should be held accountable too. Our state budget is already projecting deficit spending for the foreseeable future because of SB  21. We cannot afford to have these companies take billions more in profit outside of Alaska without reinvesting dollar-for-dollar back into our state.

These industry commitments would not have happened without the tireless efforts of our yes campaign volunteers. As the only paid staff, we are both so proud of the hundreds of volunteers and more than 1,000 individual Alaskan donors who made the yes campaign possible. This contrasts sharply with the army of paid staff, big ad agencies, and $15 million campaign budget (only nine individual Alaskan donors) on the no side.

It is important to emphasize that our campaign was dominated by Alaskan voices, not corporate money. Because of this, we were an incredibly efficient organization in terms of earning votes. The yes campaign spent $8 a vote compared to the no side at $170 a vote. This result is due to our incredibly passionate volunteers and supporters who devoted numerous hours canvassing on phones and at doors to ensure Alaska’s prosperity.

Politicians and industry leaders need to pay attention to what Alaskan voters are saying. Because of our volunteers, the yes campaign received strong support from every part of the state. We won Fairbanks, all of Western Alaska, Kotzebue, a large swath of Anchorage, and Coastal Alaska, including Valdez, the terminal for the trans-Alaska pipeline.

Many of the regional areas that voted yes are the same areas of Alaska that will have competitive legislative races in the fall. No matter if the legislative candidate is Democratic or Republican, any candidate who will not pledge to hold the oil industry accountable for broken promises is not fit to hold elected office.

We have to hold our politicians to the same high standards as we hold the oil industry and every other industry in Alaska. Every job lost by Alaskans, every quarterly production decline, and every budget deficit in the Legislature will be a broken promise to everyone who voted in this primary election, whether they voted yes or no.

We look forward to remaining active with the same team that made the yes campaign so successful. We are excited about the opportunities to join with many more Alaskans in November to make sure our state is as prosperous as it should be. We are giving SB 21 and the Big Three the chance they asked for.

See you in November.

T.J. Presely was the campaign manager for Yes on One, the effort to repeal SB 21. Nick Moe was that campaign's volunteer coordinator.

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.