As Alaskans we all benefit from oil production. Oil royalties have paid for roads, schools, state services, and have been the catalyst for the major strides Alaska has made since the oil prospects in Prudhoe Bay were discovered, and the Pipeline was built. Ballot Measure 1 is not a referendum on the oil industry, it is a policy question of how we should structure our relationship with the oil industry, partnership and not exploitation.
Article 8 of the Alaska Constitution states “The legislature shall provide for the utilization, development, and conservation of all-natural resources belonging to the State, including land and waters, for the maximum benefit of its people.”
The questions before us as informed voters are: Do we believe that we are getting a fair share of the oil wealth that belongs to all of us as Alaskans, and has the Legislature set up an oil tax policy that ensures that we reap the “maximum benefit” for the resource that we own in common? Probably not. Exacerbating the situation is that the state is in dire straits financially and needs additional revenue streams. Therefore, the remaining question is: Why should we tax ourselves — and possibly do away with our Permanent Fund Dividend — to correct this inequity and provide stability for the state when multi-national firms keep getting richer at our expense?
Ballot Measure 1 would make two surgical reforms to our oil tax structure. First, Ballot Measure 1 would increase the gross minimum production tax for three oil fields from 4% to 10%. These three fields are the most proven and profitable prospects on the North Slope. Second, the Fair Share Act would eliminate a tax credit for major producers that lost the state over $4.2 billion since the legislature passed Senate Bill 21 six years ago. Paying out $7 in tax credits for every dollar we gain in revenue is madness and, frankly, is bad business.
The combination of lost revenue to poor tax policy and devastating budget cuts, and vetoes caused by ignoring it, have shaken confidence in the capacity of our elected leaders to respectfully prioritize Alaska’s well-being and survival over the quarterly profit reports of three oil corporations.
Just as industry relies on stable and fair tax policy, working Alaskans rely on stable and consistent state budgets to be able to make long term decisions at the kitchen table about saving for our children’s college education, how to plan for retirement, and whether to continue to invest in our communities.
Join me in voting yes on Ballot Measure 1 for a sustainable future.
• John White is a Juneau resident and president of Local 4900, a State Supervisory Union.