Group seeking oil tax changes files complaint against Division of Elections, lieutenant governor
A group that wants to make changes to Alaska's oil tax credit system through a ballot initiative is suing Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer and the Alaska Division of Elections over language appearing on petition booklets being used to collect signatures.
The group, called "Vote Yes for Alaska's Fair Share," includes an Anchorage attorney, a former tax division director and former state lawmakers. They believe Alaska’s oil tax system, known as Senate Bill 21, favors the industry over Alaskans.
- Applying changes to larger North Slope fields that produce a minimum 40,000 barrels daily over the most recent calendar year and 400 million cumulatively;
- Increasing the gross minimum production tax for these larger fields from 4% to 10% while increasing the 10% minimum by 1% (up to a maximum of 15%) for every $5 increase above $50 per barrel;
- Eliminating the $8 per barrel credit starting at $50 per barrel and adds an additional 15% tax on producers’ profits beginning at $50 per barrel of profit.
The group said the state is not getting its fair share largely because of a per-barrel deduction it believes is overly generous, especially at a time when the state is running annual billion-plus deficits.
"If you want to see if you're getting a good deal, compare yourself to your business partner," said Fair Share spokesperson Nate Graham. "You know Alaskans have seen their PFD slashed, jobs slashed, and if you look at Conoco, they're increasing their dividends to their shareholders. They're making record profits in Alaska, and that is just fundamentally not fair to the state. We need to create a system that's fair to both us and them. We keep hearing this idea that, 'It's state services or a PFD.' Well, we can have both. We can have state services, we can have essential state services, we can have a statutory PFD if we get our fair share for our oil, and the Fair Share Act will solve that problem."
The complaint, filed in Anchorage's Superior Court on Nov. 14, alleges Meyer did not properly summarize the Fair Share Act when preparing a ballot title and proposition for the measure:
This case concerns whether Defendant Meyer met his duty to prepare "a true and impartial summary" of the Fair Share Act ("Summary"). He did not. Instead, Defendant Meyer's and the Attorney General's reluctant certification found clear expression in the confused and contradictory Summary they have advanced. The essential purpose of the Summary is to be a true and impartial description of the Fair Share Act, but the Summary advanced by Defendant Meyer is neither. These actions by Defendant Meyer undercut the initiative rights of Alaskans and should not be countenanced by the courts. The Summary should be corrected to ensure Fair Share's constitutional and statutory rights associated with the initiative process are not compromised by Defendant Meyer, and the Fair Share Act is truly and impartially described on the ballot for voters.
The complaint claims attorneys for Fair Share submitted suggested corrections for the summary and offered to reimburse the state for any additional printing costs, but were notified that the defendants would not meet or discuss the issue.
A group called One Alaska has organized to oppose the Fair Share Act. One Alaska is made up of business and community members, including former independent House Rep. Jason Grenn, who called the measure a "short term cash grab" and said it could cause oil companies to leave Alaska.
"These decisions aren't just made in a statewide basis. We're looking at a global scale of, can Alaska be a place we want to be at, and there's a lot of choices to be made and anytime you start and anytime you start making a system less stable, tough choices have to be made, and I'm fearful for people starting to pull out," he told KTVA in a previous interview.
Supporters of the Fair Share Act must gather more than 28,000 certified signatures from registered voters statewide to get one next year's ballot.
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