JUNEAU — The Alaska Legislature will be back in full swing this week, after a break last week that allowed some legislators to attend an energy conference in Washington, D.C., or spend a few days back home.
With the session nearly two-thirds over, the dominant issue remains oil taxes, but legislative leaders are looking to make progress on other bills that have been deemed priorities, such as a proposal to truck liquefied natural gas from the North Slope to Fairbanks or a measure to advance an in-state gas pipeline, a priority of House Speaker Mike Chenault.
Here are three things to watch for this week:
A rewrite of Gov. Sean Parnell’s oil tax overhaul could advance from the Senate Finance Committee as early as this week. The panel has been looking at options, including whether to impose a time limit on tax breaks for new oil. Response from industry on the measure has been mixed.
While some of the independent producers see room for improvement, they’ve also been seemingly more enthused about the proposal than the North Slope’s three major players (BP, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil), who say there are positive elements. However, they don’t like the proposed increase in the base tax rate or the fact that a tax break known as a gross revenue exclusion would not apply to currently producing areas.
Parnell, who has failed in his two prior efforts to change the tax structure as a way to encourage new investment and production, said recently that he doesn’t need to hear from companies that the plan will make the state more competitive.
“Instead of waiting on the companies, we’ve had independent analysis done, by Econ One, for example, that shows how those tax changes would make us more competitive” compared to other energy-producing areas, he said. “And that’s the independent, third-party analysis that we’re getting to demonstrate we’ve moved the needle, rather than sitting around waiting for the producers to tell us that.”
Econ One is the administration’s consultant on the tax proposal.
The House Finance Committee, which unveiled its initial rewrite of the proposed state operating budget and held public testimony last week, is on track to finalize its work this week before sending the measure to the full House for a vote. The proposal would then go to the Senate for further review. The House takes the lead on the operating budget, while the Senate takes the lead on the capital budget.
A number of proposals related to education are scheduled for hearing, including measures that would make adjustments for student transportation costs.