UPDATE: House, Senate pass oil tax credit compromise
Updated at 6:28 p.m. on Monday, June 6
A compromise on state oil tax credits emerged from a committee meeting Monday morning and passed both the House and Senate following months of debate.
The Senate approved the oil tax credit compromise with a vote of 13-6. The House narrowly approved the measure 21-19.
Oil tax credit reform has been described by majority and minority leaders in the House as the “logjam” to a larger, long-term fiscal plan.
The legislation mimics a previous version passed by the Senate on May 18 — with a few tweaks. It would eliminate oil tax credits in the Cook Inlet region by 2018. Members of a six-member conference committee reinstated a refinery tax credit that the Senate had previously eliminated. That reduces an estimated savings of $50 million, according to Department of Revenue estimates.
The conference committee also approved requiring public disclosure of credits to force transparency on what individual companies receive in tax breaks.
The new version of House Bill 247 eliminates a provision specifying a company needed a minimum of 75 percent local hires to be granted preference in receiving cash payments. Instead, the proposed oil tax credit compromise gives preference to a company that employs more Alaskans than other businesses vying for the same tax break.
The new version doesn’t include any changes to a company’s ability to carry forward and claim reimbursement of current losses. That issue has been the center of controversy in the House debate.
“Because these net operating losses can be carried forward, we will be losing money for fiscal year 2018, fiscal year ’19, fiscal year 2020. Going forward, it will be hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage.
Tarr introduced an amendment in committee Monday morning to limit payment of losses to companies producing more than 15,000 barrels a day on the North Slope.
“They’re not necessary. These are the wealthiest corporations in the world. These folks, they made record profits in Alaska,” she said. “I believe they have the talent that sat around, when they were making record profits and said, ‘We’d better plan for a rainy day because we know these record prices won’t last forever.’”
But the Senate has stood firm when it comes to the net operating provisions established under the state’s current tax structure. Giessel spoke against the amendment, saying it would fundamentally change the nature of that system — and should be a separate discussion.
“The price of oil today is around $49 a barrel. It’s changed significantly in the time that we have been in session, since January,” she said. “The Department of Revenue has opined to us that above $45 a barrel, approximately, $45-46 a barrel, this is no net operating losses being accrued by the companies on the North Slope. That begs the question, why now would we want to begin modifying a net tax system into a gross system? In fact, the problem is going away over time.”
The legislation still must get past Gov. Bill Walker. It heads next to his desk for his signature. Walker’s spokesperson Grace Jang said its “too soon to say” whether the governor will accept it.
Overall, the bill bears little resemblance to the measure he introduced in January.
When asked how the administration felt about the new version of the bill, Ken Alper, director of the state’s tax division, said he would have to speak with the governor about it and would provide a response later.
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