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My Turn: Consider the facts before voting

Posted: August 14, 2014 - 12:05am

Vic Fischer, one of the two surviving delegates to the Alaska Constitutional Convention, recently quoted Bob Bartlett, our first U.S. senator, who cautioned Alaskans not to allow us to become captive to out-of-state companies. Alaskans will decide on Aug. 19 whether we allow ourselves to become captive to out-of-state companies or if we will stand up to them in the name of independent Alaska by demanding a fair tax for our oil.

Huge international corporations are spending tens of millions to sway our vote, but note the fine print on the bottom of the ads.

Consider the facts, as recorded by the U.S. Department of Labor and the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. From 2004 to 2013, the North Slope oil and gas industry employment increased 71.9 percent, or 5,900 additional workers. From 2007 to 2011, under ACES, spending increased approximately $1.3 billion annually. Tax breaks were wisely tied to new developments.

In 2007, when ACES was enacted, the oil industry voiced its opposition, citing the need for a consistent tax structure. Today, that voice is mute as it spends tens of millions advocating change through the tax giveaway. The facts speak. The court-mandated fine for the 1989 ExxonValdez spill was $5 billion. With deep pockets and through repeated litigation, Big Oil reduced it to $507.5 million, about one-tenth of the original mandate. Then, they were reluctant to even pay the interest for those years. Facts speak.

Conoco-Philips advertises itself as “Alaska’s Oil Company.” But Alaska has no oil company. Don’t fall for the hype in the oil company ads. Weigh the facts.

SB21 passed the Senate by one vote. However, consider these facts: two senators, both of whom voted, are directly employed by the oil companies at considerable salaries. Gov. Sean Parnell worked in a lobbying capacity for the oil companies before becoming Alaska’s lieutenant govenor.

By voting “yes” on Ballot Measure 1, our state Legislature will have the opportunity to fine tune ACES, as advocated by Republican Sen. Bert Stedman of Sitka. Why abolish an oil tax system that is working for a $1 billion to $2 billion annual giveaway under SB21 without guarantees?

If this giveaway passes, the oil companies can invest their added Alaska profit anywhere in the world: Libya, Saudi Arabia, or the Gulf. Meanwhile, our schools, mental health facilities, roads and infrastructure will suffer even if a personal income tax is enacted.

Consider the facts, then step up on Aug. 19 and vote “yes” on Ballot Measure 1.

• Sen. Donald Olson is a Democrat representing Senate District T and Paul D. Beran has lived in Alaska for 21 years.

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Art Petersen
Art Petersen 08/14/14 - 12:44 pm
Standing up to the oil companies.

All of these facts weigh very heavily in favor of voting Yes on Ballot Measure 1. Except perhaps the part about standing up to the oil companies. They didn't ask for SB21. They even seemed surprised by its coming forward. Of course, since passing by 1 vote in the Senate and becoming law, now they are lobbying for it. Share holders of these huge corporations would accept no less than a spirited attempt to keep a giveaway that comes with not one string attached.

But the part about not allowing "us to become captive to out-of-state companies," that warning from Battling Bob Bartlett is highly pertinent. These huge, rich oil companies create deference to their prestige and power and create misguided public servants like the former oil lobbyist and now Governor Sean Parnell. Two more are the oil company employee senators who voted for SB21. The law would not be threatening Alaska's future today if not for those two--only one of which was needed to tip the scale. But the oil companies didn't put these employees in the Alaska Senate; the people in their districts did. And once there, how could these oil company employee senators justify voting against a bill that would net their employers billions of dollars a year? They couldn't (not without fear of having done them wrong), and so (no matter their true thinking) they deferred. It's of such effects that we need to beware, and now with voters who are employed directly or indirectly by these huge companies, some of these are speaking up in support of the giveaway law. These people and some unions and corporations are deferring to big power.

All of the facts weigh the scale heavily in favor of voting Yes on Ballot Measure 1, except for the part about standing up to the oil companies. That deserves special attention because they are Alaska's partners in bringing Alaska's oil to market and deserve respect. Behind the scenes of all this turmoil over SB21, one can imagine the oil companies' thinking, which might run something like this:

"If the SB21 recall fails, we get a lot more profit for doing what we were planning to do anyway. And if SB21 is recalled, fine. The people for repeal seem to see now that progressivity in ACES is too high and needs adjusting. So either way, we'll make out just fine. ... Of course there's no arguing that repealing SB21 and adjusting ACES is the best deal for Alaska. And it might be for us, too. If Ballot Measure 1 succeeds, that probably will cool resentment and make Alaska a better partner. There's nothing wrong with both of us earning a very good, fair profit."

Elva Bontrager
Elva Bontrager 08/15/14 - 08:25 am
Vote YES!

Vote YES on August 19!

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