JUNEAU — A grass-roots effort has formed in opposition to Gov. Sean Parnell’s plan to slash oil production taxes in Alaska.
Alaskans United to Stop Our Oil Wealth Giveaway is meant as a counterweight to the Make Alaska Competitive Coalition, a group of businesses, organizations and individual Alaskans seeking changes in the tax scheme.
Bruce Gazaway, who works in food safety, said Wednesday that the new group arose from a kitchen table conversation he had with his brother, Hal Gazaway, an attorney. Bruce Gazaway said he believes the current tax structure, known as Alaska’s Clear and Equitable Share, or ACES, provides a “pretty fair share” both to producers and Alaskans. He said he opposes what he considers to be a “gross giveaway,” proposed by Parnell, but said he personally is open to tax rate adjustments.
The current structure, passed under then-Gov. Sarah Palin, features a 25 percent base tax rate and a progressive surcharge triggered when a company’s net profits hit $30 a barrel. It also includes tax incentives. The idea behind it was that the state would help companies with credits on the front end and share with them in the good times, when oil prices were high.
Critics, including the major oil companies in the state, contend the surcharge eats too deeply into their profits and discourages new investment in Alaska.
Parnell proposed changing how the surcharge is calculated and capping it, as a way to boost investment and now-declining production. The proposal passed the state House earlier this year but stalled in the Senate, where leading lawmakers said they didn’t have the information needed to make a sound policy call.
The issue is expected to come up during the next regular session, which begins in January.
Bruce Gazaway said at this point, his group is working to find out “who our allies are,” to grow support and build momentum. He doesn’t envision the group running TV ads, as Make Alaska Competitive has, but rather sees it encouraging like-minded citizens to lobby for a fair tax — talk to their representatives, write letters.
The group was mentioned in a recent newsletter by Alaska Democratic Party Chair Patti Higgins, but Bruce Gazaway said it is a nonpartisan effort.
“I want to find folks of both faiths, if you will, that support a fair share for the citizens of Alaska,” he said.
Parnell told reporters Wednesday that he welcomes the group to the debate but said the state needs plans for getting more oil into the trans-Alaska pipeline not less.
The governor suggested the group’s name, given its position, could well be “Alaskans United to Lock Up Alaska.”