AD Main Menu

Legislator foiled in public records request to state

JUNEAU -- Rep. Mike Doogan just can't seem to get any love from the Department of Revenue.

The Anchorage Democrat has been waiting -- not so patiently -- for the department to get back to him on a request he made March 17 for a list of revenue department officials involved in drafting the administration's proposed oil tax bill, who they talked to and when.

Doogan and Rep. Les Gara raised concerns at the March House Finance Committee hearing on House Bill 110 that the legislation may have been drafted by the oil industry, rather than the administration. They believe Revenue Commissioner Bryan Butcher and his staff were unable to answer some questions about the bill that they should have known. So Doogan, a former journalist, decided to ask for the list of who had met with who and when to see if he could figure out oil company involvement.

Doogan took to the House floor on Thursday to inform his colleagues that he still hasn't gotten an answer. It's not the first time in recent weeks Doogan has used the open mic of the floor to criticize the department for ignoring his request.

Doogan said the department originally only addressed who Butcher had talked to. He complained via a formal public records request re-stating his original question.

"Then a cone of silence descended," Doogan said.

A couple of days ago, he got a letter telling him the department doesn't have a list of "meeting dates or names of participants" of people involved in drafting the bill.

"So, Mr. Speaker, I am left with one of only two things," Doogan said. "Either they don't actually keep track of who they talk to -- which raises some questions about how the department is being run and, frankly, how the administration is being run -- or if they have a list, they just don't want to give it to me."

So Doogan says he will be voting against the confirmation of Butcher in Friday's joint floor session where both bodies will convene to give a thumbs up or thumbs down on Parnell's picks for myriad boards, commissions and agency commissioner posts. That decision, Doogan said, is "on the grounds that either his department isn't doing its job or he's not doing his job."

Butcher and Parnell have said the oil industry was asked for input but that industry officials were not involved in the drafting of the legislation.

The measure would revamp the state's tax structure, reducing the amount of tax paid on North Slope production. Estimates have put the cost to the state at $2 billion a year. Another section of the bill allows oil producers to take billions more in tax credits for work done in existing fields as well as for new exploration projects.

It passed the House but is unlikely to get out of the Senate which prefers to wait for studies, due in September, that senators believe will provide much more information on which to base a decision.

Contact Patti Epler at patti(at)alaskadispatch.com.