A controversial bill to nearly eliminate oil tax credits by 2020 moved out of the House Rules Committee Thursday. House Bill 247, proposed by Gov. Bill Walker, has undergone significant changes in the last month after it was spared from defeat on the House floor, but circumstances haven’t.


Rep. Craig Johnson (R-Anchorage), backer of the latest version of the measure, says he’s still not sure it has the votes to pass. In fact, he says, he’s not even counting.


“Pass or fail, win or lose, we need to not have this be a roadblock into finishing up this session,” he told members of House Rules Committee Thursday.


The bill needs 21 “yes” votes to pass. Johnson says he will be one of them, but not because he likes the proposal.


“I certainly don’t want to go into special session over this and spend another thirty days in Juneau,” said Johnson. “I think that moving it forward is the best option at this time.”


Johnson expects the House either to decide on the bill by Sunday. Majority and minority members alike say the count is going to be close.


“It’s on the margins whether or not version D, which is its current form, has 21 votes,” said Rep. Andy Josephson (D-Anchorage), adding that the proposal doesn’t provide sufficient savings. “It probably wouldn’t enjoy any of we 13 in the Independent Democratic caucus, so the question is could it find enough out of the majority to pass? And I think it’s sort of on the margins.”


Rep. Paul Seaton (R-Homer) and Rep. Tammie Wilson (R-North Pole) have been collaborating on an amendment to leave some credits in place for smaller producers and limit the state’s future liability for reimbursement of the industry. Josephson says his caucus could support that proposal with a few tweaks.


The House is expected to begin taking up amendments to HB 247 in a floor session Friday.