Alaska House again postpones vote on oil tax legislation

JUNEAU — House lawmakers on Monday again postponed a vote on Gov. Bill Walker's bill to increase oil taxes and reform the state's cash subsidy program for small oil producers.

House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, canceled a vote on the legislation, House Bill 247, on Sunday and rescheduled it to Monday, saying he was still trying to find enough support for the bill to pass it.

On Monday, Chenault postponed the vote for a second time, saying the problem remained the same for his Republican-led majority caucus even after members met for two hours in the morning.

"We're talking our way through those issues and seeing if we can get some conclusion on whether we can get a bill to the floor and pass it," he said. He added: "We're closer, I think."

As originally proposed by Walker, the impact of the legislation compared to current law would have been about $830 million in 2018 and 2019, based on reduced cash subsidies for small oil companies and higher taxes for large ones.

The current version, a substitute from the House Finance Committee, saves about $270 million in taxes and tax-credit expenditures over the same period.

On Sunday, Chenault suggested that Walker's administration should be responsible for recruiting support for the bill, but he acknowledged Monday that the legislation needs to pass with help from the House as well.

The measure, Chenault said, is among the pieces of a financial plan that Walker wants to fix the state's $4 billion budget deficit.

"Without that and probably some other revenue measures passing, I don't see us getting out of here — I see the governor calling us back," Chenault said. "I think we need to address it. For some people it goes too far; for other people it doesn't go far enough. And we've got to find some compromise to make it work."

Nathaniel Herz

Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. He’s been a reporter in Alaska for nearly a decade, with stints at ADN and Alaska Public Media. He’s reported around the state and loves cross-country skiing.