Senate Candidates Square Off at Forum
Oil taxes and bipartisan coalition core issues
ANCHORAGE - Oil taxes and the Senate's bipartisan coalition: Those were big topics today at the first big candidate forum of the campaign season, sponsored by the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce.
Considering how contentious these races are, the tone was almost uniformly civil. But the make-up of the Senate, and its role in making changes to the oil production tax, were major points of disagreement.
Four Anchorage Senate races were the subject of the Make it Monday forum at the Dena’ina Center. Three of those contests are likely important to whether the Senate Bipartisan Working Group survives a fourth election cycle.
"You don't send me to Juneau to be a Democrat,” said Senator Hollis French, a Democrat representing West Anchorage. “You don't send me to Juneau to be a Republican. You send me to be a legislator who works with both sides to get things done. That's how it is in Juneau. That’s how it should be in Washington."
French’s opponent, Republican Bob Bell countered: "I think people vote and send you to Juneau as a Republican or as a Democrat, but they also expect you to be able to work across the aisle for the betterment of Alaska. It doesn't have to be in a formal structure such as the coalition was."
The coalition blocked Governor Parnell’s bill for cutting oil production taxes by up to $2 billion a year, which Bell emphasized.
But the issue seems certain to be back on the table next session, and candidates discussed how they'd like to encourage more production.
Senator Bill Wielechowski, a Democrat representing East Anchorage, said, "The oil companies have projections on how much oil they'll produce. You set a decline curve based on what they've already told us. And then if they beat that production decline curve, they get a tax break."
Wielechowski’s opponent, Republican former Representative Bob Roses, said something similar: “We don't need a written guarantee. We don't have to go out and say if you'll do this, we'll do that. The proof is going to be in the production. If they produce, they get a deduction. If they don't, they don't."
With just over five weeks to go until the election, it's now getting serious.
Also at the forum were Representative Berta Gardner, a Democrat, and Don Smith, a Republican, vying for a Midtown Senate seat.
Republican Paul Kendall attended, but his opponent, Democratic incumbent Johnny Ellis, did not.