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Group says it has enough signatures to put Alaska oil tax initiative on ballot

The group behind a ballot measure aiming to boost taxes paid by major oil producers in Alaska says it has gathered enough signatures to put the measure before voters.

The group, “Vote Yes for Alaska’s Fair Share,” has collected more than 43,000 signatures in at least 35 House districts, said Robin Brena, the group’s chairman, on Tuesday.

The initiative group plans to turn signature booklets in to the Alaska Division of Elections on Friday.

To qualify to put the measure on the ballot this year, the group needs 28,501 registered Alaska voters from at least 30 of the state’s 40 House districts.

“In the heart of the winter, with the cold snap, I think this has been a tremendous effort by everyone involved,” Brena said.

The measure is expected to spark a costly battle. The opposition group OneAlaska on Friday reported raising more than $250,000 to fight the measure, most of that from oil companies, including more than $100,000 from ConocoPhillips and nearly $75,000 from Hilcorp.

The last available quarterly report for the Fair Share group, filed in October, showed it raised more than $45,000. The money was primarily from Brena, an oil and gas attorney.

Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer certified the ballot measure in October, allowing backers to begin gathering signatures.

The measure would apply to the North Slope’s large, legacy fields — currently Prudhoe Bay, Kuparuk and Alpine — held by major oil companies, Brena said. It would bring the state about $1 billion extra in production taxes annually, he said.

Oil company BP has said it could cost the industry between $1 billion and $2 billion in higher taxes.

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