Opinion round-up: Alaska decides 'yes or no' on repeal of SB21 oil tax changes

Alaska Dispatch News
Dueling campaign signs encourage motorists driving along Muldoon Road on Monday, August 18, 2014, to vote in their favor on Ballot Measure 1 during Tuesday's Primary Election. Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News

It should surprise no one that in the leadup to Tuesday's primary election, Alaska's public forum was so thoroughly dominated by comment about Ballot Measure 1, the proposition to repeal the current oil production tax laws.

Few topics are as critical to the state as oil taxes. Revenue from oil accounts for the vast majority of annual state funds available for things like education, emergency and other state services, and the large amount of money involved has allowed Alaska to abolish its income tax and do without other kinds of statewide taxes. Because of reasons like that, and the fact that the oil industry is such a large part of the state economy, every Alaskan has a stake in the argument triggered by the referendum.

Did the legislation called SB 21 go too far in encouraging the oil industry to produce more oil from Alaska's North Slope? Was the previous tax system an unwise gouging of an industry that has a long history in Alaska and has taken on plenty of risk to develop the state's most valuable resource? Questions like those were asked and answered dozens of different ways in the last few months by Alaskans of all kinds. And the conversation seems far from over.

At its most basic level, the ballot question asks voters for a YES to repeal the tax laws enacted in SB 21, or a NO to keep those reforms in place. But beyond that simple choice, a host of more difficult notions reside. Those rest in the realm of ideas and values, and they will continue fueling the community conversation about state policy in our pages for quite some time, referendum or not.

The sheer volume of submissions on the topic of repeal meant that many submissions could not be considered in time for publication. Alaska's oil production may be trending downward, but its production of commentary on the topic is very healthy. Many good commentaries were published about Ballot Measure 1 this election season, and below we've tried to present a balanced selection of what we think are the highlights in the debate.

But the list below should not take away from the hard work of community members whose work we were not able to feature here or to even consider in time for publication. That we received such an overwhelming response on this issue is a testament to the importance of the topic and Alaskans' willingness to vigorously engage it. That bodes well for Alaska's future oil policy, no matter what.

Thank you, everyone, for your dedication to the public contest of ideas about issues central to Alaska.

The views expressed below 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, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.

  1. 1 Gov. Parnell: Vote 'No on One' for Alaska’s future

    OPINION: Our research confirmed what we already knew, that Alaska needed to change its oil tax structure. ACES put our children and grandchildren’s future at risk, and I acted to change that trajectory of decline so our people would have a fighting chance at a prosperous future.

  2. 2 Vic Fischer: Alaskans can craft a better oil tax deal than SB 21

    OPINION: I’m voting yes on Tuesday to repeal SB 21. I'm optimistic that Alaskans can come together and craft a better deal, far better than the bad deal imposed by the politicians.

  3. 3 Click Bishop: 'If voting No doesn't work, I'll lead the charge for changes'

    OPINION: When I cast my key Senate vote in favor of SB 21, I had to take a leap of faith. But the burden of proof is on the industry. If I don't see promised results in the next three years, I'll take action.

  4. 4 Clem Tillion: Alaska's oil should not be its only future

    OPINION: If we maximize the return on our resources, and manage them well, Alaska has a great future. We should be addressing bureaucratic stumbling blocks that affect all businesses instead of giving our children's inheritance away through oil tax cuts.

  5. 5 All the spending to keep SB 21 is an investment in Alaska's future

    OPINION: Rachael Petro argues that there are tens of thousands of reasons to vote against the oil tax cut repeal -- all the Alaskans who stand to gain by a robust oil industry.

  6. 6 Alaska's oil tax system bets it all on a nag

    OPINION: Because driving an oil field to produce as fast as possible means producing less oil total, Alaska needs to find the oil-tax sweet spot for the long run. The experiment in corporate trickle-down economics has been a failure. Let’s overturn SB21 and focus on people over profits.

  7. 7 If leaders had done their job, Alaskans wouldn't be voting on oil taxes

    OPINION: If Alaskans don't vote to repeal the current system of oil taxes, the message to lawmakers will be that a failed political process is acceptable when it comes to determining balanced taxation on our lifeblood.

  8. 8 Lance Pruitt: Why I'm voting No on 1

    OPINION: As a younger person with a young family, I was totally and completely "all in" for Alaska’s future, and that's why I voted for oil tax reform. I want to explain that choice, and encourage fellow Alaskans to join me in voting no on Ballot Measure 1.

  9. 9 Again Alaskans need to set a sovereign tone for negotiating with industry

    OPINION: Alaskans should see through the smoke and fear and vote yes Tuesday to repeal Senate Bill 21, the oil tax cut legislation. With that vote we'll set the proper tone for improving ACES in the next legislative session.

  10. 10 Former oil and gas director: Why I'm voting Yes to repeal SB21

    OPINION:  Ballot Measure 1 is about political influence, not how much Alaska should tax the oil industry. We face a choice to assert what we believe is best for ourselves and our political future or cede substantial control over that future to the oil industry.

  11. 11 Repeal of oil tax law would not kill gas line

    OPINION: Voting to repeal the SB 21 oil tax cut would not kill the gas pipeline. It would stand as a directive to the governor and the Legislature to create a better tax policy for Alaska.

  12. 12 Shannyn Moore: Alaska again needs to stand up against blind faith in industry

    OPINION: Columnist Shannyn Moore remembers how many times Alaskans have had faith in hollow promises of the oil industry, and urges Alaskans to vote yes on Ballot Measure 1.

  13. 13 Paul Jenkins: Returning to ACES will mean losing oil gains

    OPINION: Columnist Paul Jenkins argues that the more you tax something, the less of it you get, and ACES taxed to the point of hindering Alaska oil production.

  14. 14 Don't let special interests break Alaska's 'backbone' on oil taxes

    OPINION: Unfortunately, Wally Hickel and Jay Hammond and other pro-Alaska champions are no longer with us. Our generation must step forward and stand up to our obligations as citizens of this wonderful state. Are we an owner state or a corporate colony?

  15. 15 As women legislators, we're voting 'No' on oil tax referendum

    OPINION: As women who serve in the Legislature and who voted for the bill that created Alaska's 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.

  16. 16 Vote Yes; Alaskans have no bananas

    OPINION: Former Alaska Attorney General John Havelock argues that Alaskans face another fight against the forces of concentrated economic power seeking to influence its government against the state's interest.

  17. 17 Vote No; we all have a conflict of interest on oil taxes

    OPINION: No matter how much we try to diversify our economy, nothing comes close to the oil industry, and to ignore that for the sake of populist sound bites, hurts no one but Alaskans.

  18. 18 Charlie Huggins: Alaska's oil tax cut is working, give it a chance

    OPINION: Alaska Senate President Charlie Huggins urges voters to vote no on the referendum of SB 21 because the laws are performing as intended to boost Alaska's oil production.

  19. 19 Fear is the oil industry's most powerful weapon

    OPINION: Columnist Steve Haycox says the oil industry is up to its old game of fear mongering -- and Alaskans should know better than to tremble.

  20. 20 Vote 'No on One' to keep Alaska prosperous

    OPINION: Rick Mystrom looks at a dreary future if voters repeal the oil tax cut -- and a rosy future if we reject repeal.

  21. 21 Gary Stevens: How I'm voting on Prop 1, and why

    OPINION: Sen. Gary Stevens won't presume to tell you how to vote on Ballot Measure 1, but he can tell you how he'll vote himself and how he got there.

  22. 22 Dingman: Alaskans should not repeal oil tax cuts

    OPINION: Columnist Mike Dingman argues that because oil is so important to Alaska, cutting taxes on production upholds the constitutional requirement that Alaska's resources be developed for maximum benefit of its people.

  23. 23 Numb with numbers? Oil tax boils down to these questions

    OPINION: Beset by dueling numbers and enough TV ads to choke a cable box, columnist Elise Patkotak cuts through the noise to fundamental questions.

  24. 24 Alaska nonprofits should unite against oil tax referendum

    OPINION: Non-profit organizations know better than most just how valuable a healthy oil industry is to Alaska.

  25. 25 Long view of Alaska's prosperity leads to No on One

    OPINION: Lynden chief Jim Jansen says his years in the Alaska transportation business inform his decision to vote No on One.

  26. 26 Palin gets this one right: Repeal SB 21

    OPINION: Sarah Palin has it right on oil taxes -- Alaskans need to push back and repeal Senate Bill 21.

  27. 27 In support of oil tax referendum, Bill Walker makes perfect case against it

    OPINION: I admire Bill Walker’s passion, but I think he’s made the wrong policy call about Alaska’s oil tax structure. Voting no on Ballot Measure 1 is a vote for Alaska’s future.

  28. 28 Oil in TAPS is a boon to Alaska; how about a little help

    OPINION: Alyeska Pipeline chief Tom Barrett says a no vote on SB 21 repeal recognizes the reality and contribution of oil in Alaska.

  29. 29 SB 21 fallacies no match for hard truths; vote Yes on One

    OPINION: Those in favor of saving SB21 from a referendum rest their position on fallacies; Alaskans will suffer higher taxes if we don't repeal the tax cuts.

  30. 30 SB 21 has fired up investment in Alaska's oil and gas

    OPINION: In my professional experience, the passage of SB 21 has triggered more capital investment in Alaska's North Slope, and that's key to continued prosperity.

  31. 31 Under ACES, oil taxes were like taking all of a salmon run

    OPINION:  It makes no sense to vote to repeal a productive law like SB 21 to go back to ACES. Production of Native oil and gas resources needs to be competitive in order to share their potential with all Alaskans.

  32. 32 Alaskans need to stand up for free market, reject flawed oil tax 'reform'

    OPINION: Alaskans should no longer accept third-rate prices for its most valuable resource overall.