Make Alaska Competitive Coalition Pushes Oil Tax Reform
Targeting legislative campaigns
ANCHORAGE - The Make Alaska Competitive Coalition' s stepping up its efforts to make oil tax reform a central issue in every legislative campaign this fall.
The coalition plans to spend up to $500,000 on radio and TV advertisements urging voters to question candidates on what they are willing to do to encourage more oil production on the North Slope.
The coalition is targeting the fall legislative campaigns, but not in the way that political action committees normally do.
Said former Governor Tony Knowles: "We're not supporting any candidates, and we're not supporting anything that's on the ballot. We're using the election period as an opportunity to hopefully have the kind of conversations that we think is important to Alaska’s future."
The business owners and former politicians in the coalition say that they are focused on the biggest issue in the state -- arresting the ongoing decline in oil production on the North Slope, by reducing the tax burden of the producers.
Oil taxes make up 90 percent of state general fund revenue, and the coalition says state spending is unsustainable at current levels.
"So when the adjustment comes, when you have to reduce expenses dramatically, we don't have a big enough revenue base, tax base, in our state to cover that gap," said banker Marc Langland, co-chair of MACC. "So it either has to come out of the budget reserve account or it comes out of the earnings of the Permanent Fund."
Former House Speaker Gail Phillips triggered an argument with a reporter for the Alaska Dispatch when she tied the issue to the Permanent Fund Dividend.
"The public of Alaska very clearly understands a $2,000 PFD check versus an $878 pfd check," Phillips said, to which reporter Amanda Coyne countered: "That had nothing to do with it." Phillips insisted: "It certainly does."
The coalition knows that Alaskans aren't feeling any fiscal pain yet.
"Suck on that lollipop until it's gone,” said Jim Jansen of Lynden, Inc., co-chair of MACC. “But if we care about long-term, beyond five years, 10 years and 15 years out, there's only one way we're going to survive in this state in the economy, and that's to be competitive, to attract long-term investment in the petroleum industry. Without it, we're dead."
That’s a conversation they want all Alaskans to have.
Meanwhile, the group Backbone -- which formed in 1999 to protest a proposed merger on the North Slope -- is backing the Senate Bipartisan Working Group, where oil tax reform died in the last legislative session.