Signature gatherers have until July 13 to solicit support for an effort to repeal Senate Bill 21, a piece of legislation that intends to encourage economic growth by cutting taxes for oil and gas producers.
A website for Vote Yes! Repeal the Giveaway says that the petitioners have gathered 28,000 signatures so far. For the issue to be put on the ballot, petitioners will need to collect 30,169 signatures. The Division of Elections will then verify the petitions to make sure all signers are eligible to vote in Alaska and that each signer is counted only once toward the final number.
Juneau Chamber of Commerce CEO Cathie Roemmich said her organization believes that the Legislature made the right decision when they approved the Gov. Sean Parnell’s oil tax reform in April.
“The business community truly believes that we need to do something different with our oil. Canada is booming right now because of their oil production,” Roemmich said. “I hope that when it does go to ballot that people understand the importance of our oil tax structure.”
Gordon Harrison, a signature gatherer active in the Juneau effort, thinks SB 21 is an affront to the state constitution because it ignores the section regarding natural resources. Section 2 of Article VIII says natural resources should be managed “for maximum use consistent with the public interest”.
“There’s not a member in the Chamber of Commerce who would make this kind of a business deal in their own private dealings,” Harrison said. “I think nobody denies that we have got to get more production. If we need to lower the severance tax, we should lower it on future production and not on current production.”
If the petition is successful, voters will have until the 2014 elections to consider the issue.
• Contact reporter Jennifer Canfield at 523-2279 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.