Oil tax credits at heart of legislative stalemate
JUNEAU — Lawmakers are at a stalemate on an issue that’s holding up progress this session : How much should the state spend on tax credits to oil companies.
Gov. Bill Walker’s House Bill 247 has been taken up on the House floor four times since Sunday, but there simply aren’t 21 votes to pass it. Some members think it cuts too deep into the oil industry while others say it doesn’t save the state enough.
But until adjustments are made to the tax credits, many lawmakers say they won’t approve changes to the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend. Walker has been calling for use of the permanent fund’s earnings as part of a revenue package for funding the budget, whose fate is now tied to oil tax reform. Chenault says HB 247 is probably the most integral piece of the budget puzzle.
“Because without this piece there’s numerous members that don’t want to vote on a revenue package until this piece gets into place,” said Chenault (R-Nikiski) in an interview Thursday.
Minority members told reporters they’ll withhold their votes for any draw on savings until the majority can cut tax credits to their satisfaction.
“This oil tax bill really is the foundation for everything else,” said Minority Leader Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage). “And we simply do not want to see Alaskans pulling money out of their pockets or giving up their permanent fund to pay for the oil industry.”
Some are calling the credits cash payouts to the industry. “Can you take a thousand dollars from everyone’s permanent fund and then pay the oil and gas industry that permanent fund check?” asked Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage). “I don’t think that’s a positions supported by the public.”
Compromise is sounding complicated. The bill bears little resemblance to the governor’s original measure. But majority leadership is calling on him for help.
“I think that the governor does have to use the power of the pulpit that he carries in order to try to convince legislators how we move forward,” said Rep. Chenault.