The discussion around oil tax reform and Ballot Measure 1 has benefited from many informed and passionate voices from across the state. As women who serve in the Legislature and who voted for the bill that created our new oil tax policy, we want to lend a unique perspective on why we voted to pass Senate Bill 21 and why we will vote no on 1 this August.
The Alaska State Legislature is currently blessed with more women legislators than ever before. Our backgrounds are diverse, but we share a few common traits: We are all either mothers, grandmothers, aunts, godmothers or guardians for many young people. As professionals, we work for the benefit of all Alaskans, but it is safe to say we make decisions with the best interests of children in mind.
Whether that is standing up to fight domestic violence, working to improve our education system or even promoting breast feeding, we all legislate with an eye for what is best for our future generations.
Our vote on oil tax reform was no different.
In our minds, we owe it to our kids to lay the foundation for a healthy, sustainable economy for many years into the future. Ideally, our young people will have the same or even more opportunities than we did when it comes to finding a job and raising a family in Alaska. We realized several years ago that the reality of a brighter economic future for Alaska kids was in jeopardy because of a well-intentioned but failed tax policy.
Our economy depends on oil. Not just for government revenues, which are vital, but also for private and public sector jobs that support families. So when we realized our old oil tax structure was not stopping year after year of declining oil production, we knew we needed to make a change and get Alaska back on track.
Collectively, we listened to thousands of hours of expert testimony, public debate, and conversations with our peers in the Legislature about how and why to change our tax structure. In the end, we knew we needed to take bold action to ensure that our oil industry, the lifeblood of our economy, was stable and growing. We couldn't just hope for the best. We recognized it was time to take action, a trait women are known to possess.
So we voted to pass SB 21. And we remain proud of that vote. Why?
Because it's working. In exciting news for Alaskans, we managed to take a bite out of oil production decline in the last fiscal year. After years of watching the amount of oil moving through the pipeline fall by 6 and 8 percent a year, this last fiscal year the decline is estimated at less than 2 percent, all because of the companies' decision to rework existing wells to move more oil. They always knew the oil was there, but now it made financial sense to go get it. And when Alaska produces more oil, we all win.
Closer to home, when we talk to our friends and neighbors, they tell us how the small-business climate has improved since tax reform passed. Union leaders tell us they had to double the number of employees last winter because of all the new work. Small businesses like restaurants, trucking companies, and even embroidery shops talk about how busy they are now that the oil companies have increased their spending in Alaska.
As legislators, we know that if Alaskans feel at any time that we need to change the tax structure again, we can. For now, we are keeping open minds based on the positive results we are seeing. We are inclined to give the new oil tax time to prove it's working in the longer term, especially in light of the jobs and economic activity it is already generating. It is the fair thing to do, especially when we consider that a stable economy is something we owe to the generations coming behind us. For all of these reasons, we are voting no on Ballot Measure 1 on Aug. 19.
The views expressed here are the writers' own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.