AJOC EDITORIAL: Session gets off to fast start


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First the good news from Juneau.

Those with concerns about a slow session of the Alaska Legislature with a rush to close at the end, forget it.

The pace started fast and is accelerating.

Members of the Alaska State Chamber spent a couple of days during their annual “Fly-In” to the capitol talking to legislators and their staff about oil tax reform, the cost of energy and ways to loosen the permitting stranglehold on new Alaska projects.

The atmosphere is electric, intense, all business.

The halls of the Capitol are Juneau’s version of rush hour, with legislators jogging by, waving greetings and quick comments between hearings and meetings.

Long-time Capitol watchers agree the intensity and fast start is something new. The governor, house and senate leadership all came to the session prepared, plans in place, ready to move fast.

Gov. Sean Parnell’s plan is simple (as simple as anything can be with oil) — incentivize production, eliminate progressivism, be fair to all Alaskans, and make it workable for the long-term.

Now the rest of the story.

The usual and democratic process of tweaking, amending, second-guessing and rewriting began before the session started.

While the governor now has a substantial majority of Senate supporters, compared to last year’s deadlock that doomed any tax reform, there are lots of cooks stirring the pot.

The key will be sticking to the task, to keep it simple and not amend any legislation to death.

Alaskans must be willing to make a little less on each barrel and drop of oil, in exchange for a lot more volume and revenue.

“It’s our oil!” was a popular anti-reform theme last fall, from those concerned that the state will give away too much.

“Yes, it is our oil,” somebody quipped in Juneau last week, “and you want to take a bucket to the North Slope and scoop it out of the ground yourself?”

Alaska needs oil industry partners to find, produce and sell its natural resources. Oil partners who are committed, profitable and successful.

The alternative (and current model) is scary and absolute — getting maximum return from oil no company is willing to produce.

We have to embrace that the energy marketplace has changed radically. We are no longer the only game in town and we need to beware of the day when we have oil and no market. Alaska’s oil doesn’t convert into a better-funded state while it is in the ground.

Successful business people know you can’t spend more than you earn. You can count yourself successful if you make more than you spend, and save for a successful future.

The fast start in Juneau is encouraging. But results are what counts — this is not a year for endless special sessions.

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