AJOC EDITORIAL: Oil tax changes must happen this session
After more than a full year of “work,” Alaska lawmakers are now saying they may be short on time in their efforts to change the oil tax laws.
Legislators have no excuse. They need to get this work done – in this session – and pull Alaska out of the state of flux it’s been in since the Palin administration wrote the current law. We don’t need to waste time and money on a special session, more studies and more endless debate.
Lawmakers started discussing this issue during the last session, but didn’t take it seriously enough. They have heard for months now that the tax system on the North Slope is too expensive to entice new exploration. They have heard for years that production from the Slope is in decline.
They have seen the studies and the incident reports from spills and other problems on the trans-Alaska oil pipeline that say a good portion of the problems are the result of too little oil flowing through.
They’ve heard all this from the world’s oil company executives, consultants and industry experts.
But last year, the bill to make necessary changes got stuck in the Senate while worthless bills made their merry way through the legislative process, only to fail. Remember the effort to ban the use of Sharia in state courts? Or how about the one naming an official state firearm? Or the one saying Alaska students had to read the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Articles of Confederation – all of which high school government teachers already teach.
Or how about that special session to get something – anything – passed on coastal zone management? Remember the photos of lawmakers grilling shrimp in the parking lot because they had nothing to do? And they didn’t pass a bill. They’re not even talking about coastal management this year.
The past holdouts on the oil tax issue have now said, in public, that they see the light, that change needs to happen.
What have they done so far this year? Passed four bills – one for special license plates and allowing themselves to delay meeting a requirement for online reporting of campaign money. The other two relate to fishing stream access and returning seized property.
They still have to get the capital and operating budgets done before they go home.
But instead of putting their heads together to hash out the details, they take a week off while a handful go to an Energy Council meeting in Washington, D.C. Work has stopped for a full week in the middle of a preciously short 90-day session.
Yes, Alaska should get its fair share of revenues from its resources. But “fair” should be the operative word. “Fair” should include everyone involved, including the businesses (yes, even oil companies) that come into our state, put our people to work and support our charities.
Our lawmakers should be working together now, every day, to get the oil tax bill done.