Opinion: The Fair Share Act will help avert the looming economic meltdown

  • Friday, October 16, 2020 10:48am
  • Opinion
Ballot Measure 1, which would raise taxes on certain North Slope oil fields, is on the ballot for Alaska’s general election in November. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

By Merrick Peirce

The $20 million propaganda campaign underway argues that Alaskans are better off, somehow, getting less for our oil, and also paying billions in corporate welfare at a time when Alaska is on the brink of financial disaster. The basic facts should be known by every voting Alaskan. In the next fiscal year the legislature will deal with a budget deficit estimated to be $2.3 billion. Past legislatures have nearly emptied all the reserve accounts as a direct consequence of our giving away billions of dollars of oil as a result of Senate Bill 21. With $18 billion in savings wiped out, each Alaskan — every man, woman, and child would have to pay $3,000 in order to raise enough revenue to balance the state budget. In addition, every Alaskan would have to pay an additional $1,000 to pay off the $733 million bill due for awarded credits (corporate welfare) that the Alaska Supreme Court has ruled may not be dealt with through long term debt financing.

It gets worse. Next year’s deficit will not be a one time occurrence. These massive deficits will only grow, especially as the SB 21 provisions continue to reduce revenues. The easy cuts have already been made. The billions we used to spend within the capital budgets have been eliminated. Maintenance of our roads, bridges and buildings is not adequate. In short, our infrastructure will continue to crumble. The Alaska Marine Highway System is already crippled, and cuts to the University system have caused thousands of students to flee as programs and curriculum are cut.

Our state pension systems are underfunded by billions of dollars and there is no plan to deal with the fact that at some point pension obligations will not be honored as the Alaska Constitution requires.

The Fair Share Act will help avert the looming economic meltdown by limiting corporate welfare, getting us a better return from Alaska’s three major oil fields, and decriminalizing the ability of Alaskans to understand the finances of our legacy fields. As the owners of our oil, it is hard to comprehend why Alaskans should be made into criminals for trying to learn this information. Yet that is the law that exists today, and what the FSA will change.

Big Oil tried to stop Alaskans from voting on this initiative. It sought to void the election by having thousands of signatures on the initiative petition tossed. The case was ultimately a free speech issue, which Robin Brena took to the Alaska Supreme Court. There, the justices rejected the claims by Big Oil and ensured our right to vote. Another dirty trick was concocted by Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, a former ConocoPhillips employee, who as a conflicted legislator voted for SB-21. Meyer prepared ballot language that was false and misleading. Robin Brena took that case to the Supreme Court where the justices affirmed a lower court decision that rejected Meyer’s actions.

Throughout this campaign Big Oil has actively lied to Alaskans. One example is found with the illegal banner ads that proclaim that Alaskans getting less for our oil will be good for jobs and dividends. Any informed Alaskan knows Big Oil has reduced thousands of jobs since SB 21 became law. We know that our dividends have been dramatically reduced to subsidize the corporate welfare of Big Oil. Each Alaskan has lost $7,000.00 due to smaller dividends. This is a staggering $28,000.00 loss for a family of four, and a $5 billion loss to Alaskans state-wide over the years SB 21 has been in effect. While Alaskans have lost billions, the CEO of

ConocoPhillips and its shareholders have done well. CEO Lance is compensated at about $74,000.00 per day. The poorest Alaskans should not be subsidizing this gross inequity.

We will not prevail in this fight unless Alaskans unite and help us. If you want to protect the modern Alaska we love, please donate to our campaign. (Fairshareact.com). Write letters, talk with your friends. But be sure to vote “Yes” on one. Otherwise the economy of Alaska will be decimated. We’ll have all sorts of new taxes, the dividend program will end, and many more cuts to the budget are guaranteed.

Merrick Peirce of Fairbanks is one of the three prime sponsors of the Fair Share Act along with Robin Brena and Jane Angvik. Peirce is the former CFO and board member of the Alaska Gasline Port Authority. He served Gov. Sarah Palin on the Department of Revenue Transition team and Gov. Bill Walker’s transition team on energy. Peirce is also a ConocoPhillips shareholder. 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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