Lawmakers Consider Options After Session Derailment
In-state gasline bill still on the table
JUNEAU - On Day 10 of the special legislative session, with the senate adjourned, House Speaker Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski) was still trying to find a way to move forward on an in-state natural gas pipeline.
It already was too late for oil tax reform. Chenault says he's accepted Governor Parnell's decision to pull his bill on oil taxes off the special session proclamation.
"My interpretation of the governor taking them off the call, that that is probably a non-starter there - but is there a way we can move forward with in-state gas pipeline legislation? So we're having discussions with the senate right now."
The conversation occurs because of the senate majority's interpretation of the governor's action as rescinding the entire special session - which prompted the upper chamber's abrupt adjournment Thursday.
So far, it's unresolved whether the legislative leaders can agree on a way to continue the special session - or to call their own. Before the senate's adjournment, lawmakers and observers still were absorbing the news that Parnell gave up on oil taxes.
Said House Minority Leader Beth Kerttula (D-Juneau): "It was kind of a shock last night when we all saw him cut bait. This was a good day for Alaskans. There was no reason to have a $2 billion a year giveaway, that gives away roads, schools, our ability to see good strong jobs for Alaskans."
The administration was accused of botching its presentations to legislators.
"They were unprepared to answer obvious questions," said Representative Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage). "They answered inaccurately. They said they'd get back to us and failed to do that. And lastly they told us to ask the oil industry."
The oil industry does not intend to give up on getting a more favorable tax regime.
"We remain committed to finding meaningful tax reform because the issue doesn't go away," said Kara Moriarity, executive director of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association. "Production is going to continue to decline at an accelerated rate until we see a change in our tax structure."
For now, though, Chenault says the outlook is bleak.
"Unfortunately, I think it doesn't bode well for Alaska's future, not seeing the investment dollars coming into Alaska to continue to fund 90 percent of our budget."
He hopes to salvage the special session with movement on a gas line. Chenault said he talked with Senate President Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak) today but did not indicate that any progress was made on a mutual decision regarding the next step.