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Empire Editorial: Reform must work for all sides or it won't work at all

Posted: February 3, 2013 - 1:05am

Those who predict the future are often met with well-deserved doubt and criticism, but there are times when it doesn’t take a crystal ball to see what the future may hold. Mystic powers aren’t needed for Alaskans from across the state to widely agree that continued declines in oil production don’t bode well for Alaska’s future.

The need for more oil in the pipe is a simple concept to grasp — and the solutions are anything but.

To compound the problem, the information that is disseminated to the public is being filtered through political agendas. No surprise there, we just have to understand it for what it is.

The primary consideration in tax reform should be to establish a taxation system that will positively impact oil production in Alaska and be survivable through future administrations and Legislatures. For companies to invest or reinvest here, they must have some sense of predictability. It matters less about the barrel price of oil today or tax progressivity multipliers than it does to have some assurances that once companies commit investments in Alaska, there won’t be a major shift in policy again and again. We need to achieve success for the long term, not just for an election cycle.

We believe Governor Parnell has it right on this count. The test of his leadership will be to encourage real reform that doesn’t acquiesce to big oil but goes far enough to encourage more investment and he must do so with broad bipartisan support to avoid the risk of the reform’s undoing down the line. Our Governor walks a precarious line to be sure and has placed himself squarely in the sights of every faction to take their potshots at both he and reform. We appreciate the Governor’s courage to stand and deliver.

Every one of us has a stake in a successful outcome but the process is far more arduous than it should be. Some contributing factors to the Legislature’s inability to come together for the common good get hung up by controllable factors.

Revenue Commissioner Bryan Butcher must inspire confidence when testifying in committee and elsewhere. His bumbling only serves to create doubt and skepticism. He may very well be an expert on the matter but he sure doesn’t wear it well.

Sen. Bill Wielechowski and Rep. Les Gara need to stop the media chasing and get down to work. Dueling pistols at 30 paces serves no purpose other than to stir up controversy and distract and retard progress. Those two need to have the microphones and TV cameras surgically removed so they can get down to business and focus on real reform. Both are certainly intelligent enough to contribute to the greater good but that is awfully hard to do with a sword in one hand and a stone in the other.

Together, we need to figure out what we must invest to secure our financial future and then make those adjustments so that oil producers feel that Alaska is a good investment again and the politicos from both sides have crafted reform that can last for decades. Reform must work for all sides or it won’t work at all.

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