Minority leader talks tough on oil tax bill, planned move of F-16s

Senate Minority Leader John Coghill, R-North Pole, speaks to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce during its luncheon at the Hangar on the Wharf's ballroom on Thursday.

“Shame on them.”


Senate Minority Leader John Coghill, R-North Pole, had little good to say about the Senate Majority’s handling of its oil tax bill.

“Now I’m going to get political,” Coghill said.

Coghill said he pledged not to whine or complain.

“But I got to tell you, the way the Senate has acted has not been in the best interest for Alaska for the last little bit,” Coghill said.

The Senate Majority, he said, has delayed work on the oil tax bill and is now rushing ahead with an incomplete product.

Last year, Coghill said, the majority wanted to look at the oil tax issue, bring in consultants, look at world economics and different tax structures and elicit testimony from the oil industry.

“And I partly agreed,” Coghill said. “It was going pretty fast.”

But then a couple milestones passed in 2011 without comments or meetings from the Senate majority, Coghill said. Though the start of session came with a lot of talk, he said. “Five weeks into the legislative session…we have still not taken up the bill,” Coghill said. “A lot of talk, no bill.”

Then, without input from consultants, the industry or Gov, Sean Parnell, the Senate Resources Committee introduced Senate Bill 192 on March 5, Coghill said.

“They promised us fair hearings and they used up more than half of this session to get there,” Coghill said. “So here we are a week before the end of the session and still the Senate is still looking at the bill,” Coghill said. “Shame on them.”

He stressed the need to spur production to feed the trans-Alaska pipeline.

“It’s not a sick pipeline, but boy it was about a year ago,” Coghill said. He said the pipeline, shut down at the time in minus 40-degree temperatures, was in danger of cooling and solidifying into “a big Chapstick,” he said.

“For those of you who heard up on the hill this year that ‘(the pipeline’s) good until 2050, or 2060 … that is true with my house too … but if you don’t put something in it, if you don’t operate it, if you don’t maintain it, it doesn’t last that long,” Coghill said.

Though the minority leader, Coghill said he feels his views mirror a majority of Alaskans.

“I never think of myself as being in the minority, because there are a lot of people in Alaska that think just like me and they are way over the majority,” Coghill said.

He also touched on a hot topic for his home district, the planned relocation of F-16 fighter aircraft from Fairbanks’ Eielson Air Force Base to Anchorage’s Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

“With the idea that they are going to save money by doing that,” Coghill said. “I don’t know if they are actually going to do that, but that’s their justification.”

Coghill referenced the state’s role in national defense with a sign he saw in Delta Junction that said “Alaska has your back, America.”

“It’s a big deal in Alaska and it’s a big deal in the United States,” Coghill said.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.


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