GUEST COMMENTARY: Ballot Measure One will hurt investment in our state

The Alaska Chamber serves as the statewide voice of Alaska business, a job we take seriously. Our membership ranges from small, mom-and-pop businesses to large, multinational corporations.

The shutdowns and mandates related to COVID-19 have dealt a devastating blow to all of them, with no end in sight. To say it’s tough for anyone to do business in Alaska right now is an understatement. Ballot Measure One will make it worse.

Starting a business or making new investments involves taking on risk, a factor that must be managed before any potential investor pulls the trigger on a new venture. Even in a roaring economy, investment is risky. Seemingly solid business plans fail for reasons few could anticipate: market disruptions, trade agreements, and shifting consumer demands are a few examples. Many of these risks fall outside of an individual’s control.

The chamber’s focus is on promoting practices that Alaska can control. Public policy is one such area of emphasis. That is precisely why our membership is so strongly opposed to Ballot Measure One.

To willingly impose this kind of tax increase on any industry or business at this point would be a devastating choice. Ballot Measure One will set our economy back. We have a long, hard road ahead of us to achieve economic recovery under the best circumstances, and we should not be asked to impose punitive new taxes on Alaska’s largest economic driver. Such a move is foolish, and will hurt everyday Alaskans in the form of lost jobs and decreased business investments in our state.

For all the bumper sticker talking points about “fair share” and “our oil,” Ballot Measure One proponents cannot hide from the basic fact that businesses invest where the rules are fair and predictable. Investors have choices, and punitive new taxes will persuade investors to look to more stable areas to deploy their capital. It is not a gamble we will win. Not in good economic times, and especially not now.

Additionally, the ballot box is perhaps the worst place to decide complex tax policy. Voters are presented with two, overly simplistic options on Ballot Measure One: Yes, or no. There is no “yes, with amendments” or “no, but maybe once the pandemic is over.” It is an all-or-nothing proposition.

The Alaska Legislature is the appropriate venue to take up complex public policy. Recently, the state changed tax regimes with respect to the oil industry; if we wish to once again change the rules, our elected leaders can tackle the issue of oil taxes with all the analysis and data they need to make an informed decision. Alaskans can and should hold them accountable, and participate in the well-defined public process.

Ballot Measure One is the wrong idea at the wrong time. It will slow Alaska’s economic recovery, meaning fewer jobs for Alaskans across the state. As an organization focused on creating opportunities for Alaska businesses to succeed, we urge Alaskans to vote no on Ballot Measure One in November.

Allen Hippler is the chair of the Alaska Chamber.

Updated: 
08/19/2020 - 9:32am