Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer on Tuesday certified a ballot measure seeking to increase the state’s oil taxes, an act that allows backers to begin gathering signatures needed to put it on the 2020 election ballot.
If approved by voters, the “Fair Share Act" would bring in about $1 billion extra in production taxes, supporters say. Those supporters now have three months to garner 28,501 signatures from election districts across Alaska to meet the deadline for next year’s election.
“It’s going to be a challenge, no doubt about it,” said Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage and one of the measure’s sponsors.
Attorney Robin Brena is the measure’s chairman. Asked whether the 95-day timeline is possible, he said, “I’m certainly hopeful; that’s our plan, and that’s what we intend to do.”
He encouraged interested Alaskans to visit the measure’s website.
If supporters cannot gather the needed signatures before the start of next year’s legislative session, the proposal would not appear on ballots until 2022.
As written, the text of the ballot measure is only two pages long, but it would have significant effects on the taxes applied to the state’s three largest and oldest oil fields:
• It would increase the gross minimum production tax from 4% to 10-15%.
• At higher prices, producers would lose a per-barrel oil tax credit, earning the state an additional $1 billion in revenue.
• The tax returns and other documents provided by oil and gas producers would be public information, instead of confidential documents.
In a legal analysis supporting the certification, the Alaska Department of Law said the measure is “difficult to interpret and raises a number of implementation and constitutional questions,” but “none of these issues amount to legal grounds to deny certification of the initiative.”
Brena said the measure would enact “good oil policies” to fix the problems with the state’s existing oil tax system.
Wielechowski said he believes “there’s a lot of public support for fixing oil taxes, and I think there’s a good chance (of getting the needed signatures).”
He said the additional money generated by the allot measure is critical for the state.
“That’s money that could be used to pay a bigger dividend, that’s money that could be used to balance our budget, for public safety or education,” he said.
According to campaign finance reports, the effort to support the ballot measure has raised more than $45,000 and spent almost $25,000. Most of the financial support has come from Brena himself, who added $25,000 cash plus substantial in-kind contributions. Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, is also listed as an early financial contributor.