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Governor keeps the job numbers fight going despite contradictory evidence

Parnell suggests state is losing jobs to North Dakota, despite record Alaska hiring

Posted: February 2, 2012 - 1:10am

Gov. Sean Parnell on Wednesday urged the Legislature to reduce oil taxes to save Alaskan jobs, resurrecting one of the points of contention from last year’s oil tax debate in the Legislature.

“How long do we need to watch Alaskan workers go to North Dakota before we say ‘let’s get new production now?’” Parnell asked reporters Thursday.

Parnell’s tax proposal, House Bill 110, would cut as much as $2 billion from state revenues under some price scenarios.

The oil industry made a strong pitch for the bill last year, running a series of advertisements called “Faces of ACES” highlighting what it said were industry job losses.

The campaign claimed Alaska’s Clear and Equitable Share oil tax law was driving jobs away, but the Empire at the time reported the subjects of the commercials were largely new hires and company executives.

Still, when the House of Representatives passed House Bill 110, many members cited claims of job losses caused by ACES to justify their votes.

This year, however, a study released by the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee concluded employment on the North Slope had reached record highs since the passage of ACES.

“Last year we had all kinds of accusations out in public, one of which dealt with employment numbers being eroded, when in fact they’re not eroded, they’re at all time highs,” Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, co-chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, told reporters on Tuesday.

In addition to Parnell, his staff has been making the jobs claim as well

Revenue Commissioner Bryan Butcher also referenced North Dakota, saying on a trip there he spotted cars with Alaska license plates in that state’s booming oil towns.

Butcher said the state needs to lower taxes to get the kind of production increases that will keep those jobs in Alaska.

Sen. Hollis French, D-Anchorage, recently reminded his colleagues of the “Faces of ACES” advertising campaign.

Those ads, he said, have been shown by legislative studies not to be an accurate representation of what’s happening on the North Slope.

ACES, he said, may not be perfect, but since it passed it didn’t do what the tax cut advocates are claiming.

“Jobs are up, investment is up, profits remain very strong,” he said.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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