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ACES oil tax gets support from Conference of Young Alaskans

Meeting in Juneau, delegates oppose reduction sought by industry, governor

Posted: January 12, 2012 - 1:08am
Conference of Young Alaskans meet at Centennial Hall last week. The delegates voted to reject Governor's oil tax plans and said their top priority for Economic Resiliance and Fiscal Policy was to not lower oil taxes.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Conference of Young Alaskans meet at Centennial Hall last week. The delegates voted to reject Governor's oil tax plans and said their top priority for Economic Resiliance and Fiscal Policy was to not lower oil taxes.

Young Alaskans meeting in Juneau recently as an homage to the state’s Constitutional Convention more than 50 years ago gave a thumbs down to one of today’s hot issues, a proposal by Gov. Sean Parnell and oil producers to reduce Alaska’s oil taxes.

The 54 delegates to the Conference of Young Alaskans, brought together by the non-profit Institute of the North, debated and took stands on policy issues facing Alaska. That included the ACES oil tax issue that’s expected to be a hot topic during the legislative session that begins next week.

Some delegates cited the statehood effort of more than 50 years ago, spurred in part by a desire among Alaskans to control their own resources, as supporting their oil tax position.

Nathaniel Rubin, a West Anchorage High graduate now attending Yale, opposed the tax reduction.

“Our resources are owned by us, and are to be used for the benefit of us as a people,” he said.

The assembled delegates voted on a series of proposals involving economic resilience and fiscal policy, giving top priority to a plan to support the current oil tax system.

“Except for slight modifications based on research and knowledge, Alaska should maintain its current oil tax structure,” the delegates said.

Other proposals winning endorsement by smaller margins were support for developing Alaska’s Arctic infrastructure, boosting manufacturing, promoting Alaska hire, and increasing access and reducing the cost of electricity and Internet availability in rural Alaska.

Sam Gottstein, a Service High and Yale graduate now serving as a legislative aide for Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, called Parnell’s proposed reduction in oil taxes a gamble with the state’s future that was too risky to take.

He urged support for the resolution against reducing taxes.

“We need to send a strong message to our leaders, since they claim they are doing it for us and our future,” he said.

The adoption of the resolution came over the spirited objections of a member of Parnell’s staff, Sonia Christensen, who said the resolution’s supporters were misstating the real gamble.

“I think we’re gambling now, every day, by not doing what we can to increase production and stem the decline of the pipeline,” she said.

Reid Magdanz, who graduated from high school in Kotzebue and is now a senior at Yale, used the Alaska Constitution to argue against lowering oil taxes.

“I strongly believe that as Alaskans we own our resources, we have the right to our resources,” he said. “North Slope oil belongs to Alaskans, it does not belong to the companies that extract it,” he said.

Christensen acknowledged oil exploration was thriving on the North Slope, but she said that was despite the state’s taxes.

“Its mostly because Alaskan representatives have been traveling outside Alaska and have been seeking out new business,” she said.

Juneau’s Elise Sorum-Birk was one of those urging the delegates, and the Legislature, to use the state’s current oil wealth to develop the economy by providing better education.

“Oil is not going to last,” she said. “That’s not something that is going to be able to sustain our children.”

Sorum-Birk grew up between Wrangell and Valdez, and currently lives in Douglas and works as a teacher’s aid at the Juneau Montessori School while studying for her geography degree at the University of Alaska Southeast.

Institute of the North Managing Director Nils Andreassen said the resolutions adopted by the board will be presented to the Legislature after the beginning of the session next week, and in person later.

The resolutions will be available soon on the institute’s website at www.institutenorth.org, and the deliberations are archived in audio and video on Gavel-to-Gavel’s website at www.gavelalaska.org.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2252 or at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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