Alaskans, let’s stop selling out our best interests in favor of the best interests of Big Oil. Vote yes on Ballot Measure 1.
There is no doubt the pandemic has had a devastating impact on our state’s economy. This, of course, is especially terrible considering the fiscal cliff we have been toppling down for several years now. For his first year in office, Governor Dunleavy’s response to the fiscal crisis of our state was to cut, cut, cut and veto, veto, veto. Impressively, his approach resulted in Alaskans coming together from all around the state in a bipartisan recall effort which likely would have gone to vote by now had it not been for the pandemic. That said, the financial crisis we find ourselves in started when Gov. Sean Parnell signed SB21 into law six years ago, effectively giving away Alaska’s fair share of the billions of dollars in revenue earned by Big Oil in Alaska. The foundation for a crisis of this magnitude was laid even farther back when the Legislature did away with the income tax in the ’80s, myopically banking our entire revenue stream on the cost of a barrel of oil. Since then, Alaska’s bizarre political scene has continually favored Big Oil’s bottom line over the health and wellness of Alaskans and the final straw was SB21.
It will forever be a mystery to me why anyone who professes to care about this state — its majestic land and its incredible people — would put the income of oil company executives over the income of Alaska. Ballot Measure 1 will put an end to SB21 and require the corporations drilling in Alaska’s three largest oil fields pay their fair share of taxes to the State. This is not complicated. This is the right thing to do. The only reason you’re thinking it might not be is because Big Oil has dumped millions into convincing you it’s a bad idea. Don’t believe the hype.
The campaign against Ballot Measure 1 — whose top contributors not surprisingly are ConocoPhillips, BP and Hilcorp — would have you believe that paying taxes to the state will cause these multi billion dollar corporations to pack up their toys and go home, leaving Alaska’s economy in peril, driving up unemployment, and hurting Alaskan families. This is absurd. Oil exists here and until it doesn’t, Big Oil will remain here, working to pull every last drop out of the ground. This disingenuous campaign is yet another incredibly skillful sleight of hand on behalf of exceedingly rich corporations to make you think they’re too fragile to pay their fair share to the state they have been quietly bankrupting for years. Voting no on Ballot Measure 1 is a vote in favor of corporate oligarchs at the expense of every resident of Alaska. Why should Alaskans not share in this fortune? Why should our schools have to beg for enough to make sure all our kids are educated? Why should our elders be robbed of the safety nets that ensure they don’t starve to death? Why should our university system be gutted ensuring a forthcoming brain drain of our young and brilliant Alaskans?
It doesn’t have to be this. It does not.
As we enter the first winter of a pandemic and our second budget cycle with an administration that has made it abundantly clear where their values lie, it is imperative that Alaskans stand up for our state and for each other by voting yes on Ballot Measure 1. Big Oil can stay plenty rich and still pay their taxes, don’t let them trick you into thinking otherwise. They’ll be just fine. Alaska however — your neighbors and this great place you love — won’t if we don’t act now. Put people over corporations, vote yes on Ballot Measure 1, Alaskans deserve their fair share, and Big Oil deserves the chance to give back to us. We are absolutely worth every cent.
• Jorden Nigro is a lifelong Alaskan. She lives with her husband, two tiny dogs and one fish in downtown Juneau.