Governor's Revised Oil Tax Bill Scrutinized
Top officials from the Department of Revenue presented the governor's revised tax bill to the Senate Resources Committee.
On day three of the special legislative session in Juneau, there is no sign of a breakthrough on changes to oil production taxes.
And even a supporter of Governor Parnell says the governor's push for a big tax cut to spur investment could end up as a "train wreck."
The statement was particularly bruising coming from senator Lesil McGuire, who generally supports governor Parnell's approach to attracting new investment on the North Slope.
"If we're serious about this, and we should be, because this is the economy of our state, this isn't the way to do it. And we all know it's going to end in a train wreck. And now it's just a matter of who gets to be blamed for it. And I think that's silly."
Top officials from the Department of Revenue got roughed up for an hour and half presenting the governor's revised tax bill to the Senate Resources Committee.
Senators questioned their math and assumptions and kept hammering away at the consequences of giving away billions of dollars.
By one calculation, the governor would be giving $167,000 an hour back to the oil industry.
Said Sen. Hollis French, D-Anchorage: "I'd guess I'd point out under this bill you and the administration are proposing, if we kept ACES in place, every four days we could build a brand new high school. In four days, we could pay for statewide pre-kindergarten, something that I think after 12 years would produce citizens smart enough to figure out how to fix the decline curve."
Revenue Commissioner Bryan Butcher explained that the governor's bill is a hybrid of his previous proposal, which died in the Senate, and the Senate bill that passed last weekend focusing on exploration of new oilfields.
"The majority of the oil that we know is on the North Slope is in existing fields. If we're going to get anything done short-term, it has to be done through tax rates, it has to be done potentially through credits."
But it was, as comedians say, a tough room.