Ballot Measure 1 appears defeated
Ballot Measure 1 was an election night roller coaster.
First, the “yes” vote was up; then down. And then it was up again. Finally, the “no” vote gained momentum and remained on track for victory Wednesday morning.
The effort to repeal Senate Bill 21, the oil and gas tax policy passed by the Legislature last year, has so far failed by less than 7,000 votes.
With about 98 percent of precincts reporting, the “no” vote has about a 4 percent lead, with 79,980 votes compared to 73,184 “yes” votes.
Although the “no” side spent more than $10 million to keep SB 21 intact, the race was expected to be close — and could get a lot closer once thousands of absentee and questioned ballots are counted, which will be done on the seventh and tenth day after the election.
The “no” campaign kept quiet on Tuesday night and did not make an appearance at Election Central like the “yes” campaign, whose members paraded through the Egan Center holding signs and chanting slogans.
Sen. Bill Wielechowski, an Anchorage Democrat, was one of the leading “yes” voice; fighting to return to the tax policy created during former Gov. Sarah Palin’s administration, known as ACES — Alaska’s Clear and Equitable Share.
The Vote Yes campaign argued that SB 21 was too generous to oil companies, while the Vote No side said ACES was too aggressive and discouraged investment.
Wielechowski said the election may be over, but the fight for what he calls the state’s fair share of oil revenues is not.
“I think you’ve created an army of people out there who are going to be watching this issue very closely and are going to be making sure the oil industry lives up to their promises for more production,” Wielechowski said.
Vic Fischer, a member of Alaska’s Constitutional Convention and one of the leaders of the Vote Yes campaign, said he’s disappointed in the final vote but also elated the vote was so close, given how much oil companies spent to support the Vote No campaign.
“With millions and millions of dollars coming from three major corporations, but we weren’t scared of money. Outside money, corporate money,” Fischer said. “We the people got up. We got close to half the votes.”
Brad Keithley, an attorney who was one of the leaders in the “no” campaign, believes there’s been too much focus on campaign spending.
“It was an attempt to educate the public on what the issues are. This is a very complicated issue. Taxes are always difficult to understand,” Keithley said.
Keithley believes this is an investment that will pay off in the future; that the “no” victory will not only help produce more oil and boost the economy, but has resulted in an electorate that’s better informed about oil and gas production.
Gov. Sean Parnell visited the Egan Center as the “yes” vote appeared to be winning by a slight margin.
When he was asked if he would attempt to reinstate SB 21 if the referendum passed, he responded sharply.
“Are you kidding? The people have spoken,” Parnell said. “Regardless of the outcome tonight, any elected person is going to respect the will of the people. That’s our job as elected officials.”
Parnell said a “no” victory on Ballot Measure 1 will allow him to keep on track with incentives that will lead to more oil production, more jobs and eventually more state revenue.
Parnell also said putting Ballot Measure 1 to rest will allow the state to move forward and deal with other important issues, like development of the Alaska Liquified Natural Gas Project.