Les Gara served in the Alaska State House from 2003-2019. He currently works on children’s issues and writes on Alaska’s fishing and outdoors. (Courtesy Photo | Les Gara)

Les Gara served in the Alaska State House from 2003-2019. He currently works on children’s issues and writes on Alaska’s fishing and outdoors. (Courtesy Photo | Les Gara)

Ballot Measure 1 protects jobs and economy

We shouldn’t give oil away at a price that robs all Alaskans of a better future.

  • Thursday, July 23, 2020 10:54am
  • Opinion

Large oil companies that profit handsomely in Alaska have spent $9 million so far to spread fear. The oil tax breaks they want to keep make Alaska oil production more profitable, according to ConocoPhillips’ own annual reports, than all the Lower 48 states plus Canada combined. Ballot Measure 1, the Alaska Fair Share Act, is the only potential revenue that’s on the table. It’s fair to both Alaskans and the oil industry. It’s needed for Alaska to repair our economy and schools, a decimated Alaska Marine Highway System, and to help businesses and workers harmed by the current pandemic.

The Fair Share Act ends excessive breaks only on Alaska’s largest, most-profitable three fields.

The awful impacts of COVID-19 should help us understand what happens when you take huge amounts of money out of the economy. Businesses can’t thrive when people don’t have money to spend at them. People can’t thrive when they lose their jobs.

The double hit will come when the governor introduces his next budget in December and says he “has” to make even more cuts to schools, ferries, senior support and the things that create opportunity and a stronger economy. That will add to the over 1,000 teachers and education staff whose jobs have already been lost since 2015. It will continue the loss of construction funding that’s harmed construction businesses and jobs, the loss of University and other jobs, and the loss of wages and grants we need, more than ever, to circulate through the economy to support Alaska businesses and workers.

Without the Fair Share Act, Alaska will be almost out of savings, despite the roughly $1 billion in continuous state budget cuts made since 2015. Taking even more money out of the economy will increase our economic pain.

A University of Alaska Institute of Social and Economic Research study shows how this will harm the economy. It shows that every $100 million in budget cuts kills roughly 1,000 private and public sector jobs. Those are jobs people are laid off from, jobs lost in the private sector because there’s less money spent by workers at Alaska businesses, and then less money spent by those businesses at other businesses.

We should aim for prosperity not poverty.

The University of Alaska has had to cut over 100 degree and certificate programs. Our statewide university is the largest higher and vocational education provider in the state. The majority of its graduates, unlike those who leave Alaska

for school, stay here so we can have a trained Alaska workforce for our businesses. We shouldn’t keep cutting opportunity and ladders to success.

State support for our capital budget is roughly one-fifth the 2006-2015 average. Those funds went to construction, engineering and other businesses and jobs. They helped maintain and repair what has grown to a $2 billion backlog in needed state and University building and infrastructure repairs and maintenance.

That’s not the Alaska I want. And that’s no way to bring jobs back or to get money circulating through our economy to struggling Alaska businesses.

Ballot Measure 1 is straightforward. It implements a 10% oil production tax on our three largest fields. At high prices, a windfall profits provision allows the rate to rise to a maximum of 15% so Alaskans can share fairly as profits rise. And it stops oil companies from hiding their Alaska profits (currently only ConocoPhillips is required to reveal them under federal securities laws).

Alaska’s combined oil company production tax under Ballot Measure 1, plus oil royalty payments, would still be lower than the combined production tax and royalty costs companies pay in Texas, North Dakota, Louisiana and most major oil producing states.

Companies would still profit more in Alaska. ConocoPhillips’ annual reports show they made a hefty $5.2 billion in profits in Alaska during the past four years. In that same time they lost $2.45 billion in the Lower 48. They earned 60% less profit in all of Canada than they made in Alaska.

We should be full partners with our industry neighbors, not junior partners. It’s your oil. We shouldn’t give it away at a price that robs students, workers, businesses and all Alaskans of a better future.

• Les Gara served in the Alaska State House from 2003-2019. He currently works on children’s issues and writes on Alaska’s fishing and outdoors. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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