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Why Alaskans should not sign petition to repeal tax cut for oil companies

OPINION: The anti-development instigators of a petition drive to overturn oil tax reform at the ballot box, via citizens initiative, are gushing epithets: "paid hacks," "oil wealth giveaway," "harassment from industry shills," "flagrant interference," "voter intimidation," "grease the wheels," "cozy relationships," "a Legislature whose inner workings would make Jack Abramoff blush."

The only thing missing? Facts.

Even worse, sitting Alaska state legislators -- Reps. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks, and Harriett Drummond, D-Anchorage; and Sens. Hollis French and Bill Wielechowski of Anchorage -- are trying to inflame the public with outright lies about what the tax reform will do.

These anti-development activists have hired Ray Metcalfe, Alaska's most certifiable political gadfly, to oversee the drive to repeal the reforms passed in April by the Legislature and signed into law, recently, by Gov. Sean Parnell. This is the same Ray Metcalfe who filed a nuisance lawsuit that stopped the North Star project for two years, costing hundreds of Alaskans jobs for two years.

Metcalfe's minions include non-Alaskan paid signature gatherers, some with criminal records, who are telling blatant lies to get them to sign the petition to overturn Senate Bill 21:

  • that oil tax reform will cause a downgrade of Alaska’s credit rating;
  • that oil tax reform will threaten the very existence of the Alaska Permanent Fund;
  • that oil tax reform will lead to reinstatement of an Alaska income tax;
  • that oil tax reform will bring the biggest decline in Alaska’s economy in state history.

These statements are not true.

My wife and I are born and raised Alaskans. We got fed-up with these outrageous lies going unchallenged and decided to use the same constitutionally-protected rights these anti-development activists are using to stand in the public commons and challenge their lies.

Predictably, they are now alleging that challenging their misrepresentations is unconstitutional. What a load of moose droppings. Alaskans who want to provide a counterpoint to paid anti-development signature collectors have the same constitutional protections those out-of-state collectors have.

Some irrefutable facts about SB21 oil tax reform:

  1. The trans-Alaska pipeline fuels 90 percent of all state spending. TAPS is only 25 percent as full as it was in the 1980s and is declining steadily year after year.
  2. Every oil province in America is booming, except Alaska.
  3. Alaska has the best oil geology but the highest cost of exploration and development and the worst tax code. The Legislature can't fix the high cost of exploration and development so getting the tax structure right is critical.

The Alaska Legislature, after unprecedented study and testimony, came to a compromise change to oil tax policy. It wasn't met by the oil industry with with unbridled enthusiasm by the oil industry. Alaska's current oil-tax structure, known as ACES, offered tax credits that SB21 took away. But SB21 also created a fairer tax structure to encourage oilfield investment and create jobs for Alaskans.

There is simply no truth in the political agenda of Gara, French, Drummond, Kawasaki and Wielechowski. It could legitimately be called treasonous at a state level. They are willing to sacrifice new exploration and development simply to gain control of the Alaska Legislature and the Governor's office.

The anti-oil signature gathering effort is sending a loud and clear message that Alaska does not really want oil industry investments. Make no mistake: the industry is watching and their investments are rational reactions to the development costs and tax structure of the states they choose to invest in.

Signing the petition to overturn tax reform is tantamount to rejecting the lifeblood of funding for Alaska's education, health care, and quality of life opportunities. If you signed the deceptive petition, go to www.IMadeaMistake.org and have your name removed.

Arthur and April Hackney are lifelong Alaskans. Alaska Dispatch encourages a diversity of opinion and community perspectives. The opinions expressed herein are those of the contributor and are not necessarily endorsed or condoned by Alaska Dispatch. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.