Film is a sexy industry, far from the grimy politics of Alaska’s favorite moneymaker, oil and gas. So why, in the waning hours of the Alaska Legislature, did SB 23 become the political equivalent of a final, last-ditch football play? Blame it on oil and gas.
Much of the most recent legislative session was devoted to debate over Gov. Sean Parnell’s proposed oil tax reform and the prospect of an instate gas pipeline. As a result, SB 23 sat in House subcommittees, languishing, despite what state Sen. Johnny Ellis (D-Anchorage), a sponsor of the original bill, said was strong bipartisan support in the House.
Meanwhile, those who had cast their lot with Alaska film watched anxiously.
Bob Crockett, general manager of Piksik -- a production support company that’s a subsidiary of NANA Development Corp. -- and president of the Alaska Film Group, said that there was concern as the session wound down with no move to act on the bill.
“Everybody’s perspective was that it was going to pass,” Crockett said. “But then it didn’t. And then it didn’t. And then you have the last night of the session. We didn’t think that it was going to pass at the 11th hour. And then, all of a sudden, it did.”
Carolyn K. Robinson, a founder of Sprocketheads -- another production company popular with studios making films in the Last Frontier -- said she was watching the session anxiously as SB 23 was taken up at the last moment in the House.
“I was just thinking, ‘This can’t be happening, this can’t be happening,’ ” she said. “It was rather stressful. Lots of chocolate was being eaten.”
Ellis, however, didn’t feel much nervousness, having been through numerous legislative sessions.
“I’ve learned to see several chess or checker moves ahead, so I was able to remain pretty calm,” he said.
He still had to sit and watch as the bill was passed around from legislator to legislator, with various other tax credits tacked onto it -- gas storage tax credits, oil and gas exploration credits, a small-business tax credit.