Ramras proposes limit on gas line taxes

Posted: Wednesday, January 13, 2010

FAIRBANKS - State Rep. Jay Ramras has proposed a constitutional amendment that would hold taxes constant for the life of a major natural gas pipeline from the North Slope.

The Fairbanks Republican told The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner it would erase a risk for companies deciding whether to build the pipeline. Two construction teams are considering the project: TransCanada Corp. with Exxon Mobil Corp., and BP PLC with ConocoPhillips.

Ramras also is a candidate for lieutenant governor. He and Rep. Ralph Samuels proposed the same plan for a constant tax structure two years ago, but it died in the 2008 Legislature.

"Maybe it'll get some legs this time," Ramras said.

The proposal is similar to a 2006 request from then-Gov. Frank Murkowski that called for freezing taxes on both oil and natural gas production.

The Alaska Constitution generally forbids lawmakers from freezing taxes, but voter approval of Ramras' resolution would change that by amending the constitution. A two-thirds vote in each chamber of the Legislature is needed in order to put a proposed amendment on the ballot.

Any proposed deal, including detailed tax rates, would remain subject to approval by the state Legislature if voters approved Ramras' plan.

The potential construction teams plan to solicit long-term pledges from energy companies to supply natural gas to a pipeline. Ramras said Energy companies that control North Slope gas leases have repeatedly asked for long-term tax strategies to help them plan.

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