Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, heard concerns about Gov. Sean Parnell’s proposed oil tax cuts at the Native Issues Forum, but warned flow was dropping in the trans-Alaska pipeline and something needs to be done.
The pipeline now carries only a third of what it once did, and the pipeline may not longer be viable in 10 years, she said.
Parnell’s bill encourages exploration to find new oil, as well as boosting production in existing fields, she said.
Those incentives are needed, she said, even in the state’s legacy fields.
“A lot of the easy-to-reach oil has been recovered,” she said.
Ed Thomas, president of the Tlingit-Haida Central Council, said Parnell’s bill would simply give a $2 billion or more tax break to oil companies without requiring additional Alaska investment.
“We need to make sure the incentive is an incentive, and not just what appears to have been political payback,” Thomas said.
Muñoz defended the tax reductions, saying Alaska’s progressive tax structure is one of the highest in the world.
She said she agreed with some of Thomas’ concerns.
“We don’t want to give up a significant portion of our revenue unless we have the assurance we are going to see development,” she said.
Muñoz did not mention to the forum at the ANB Hall she had voted for the tax reductions as a member of the House Resources Committee, which made them even more generous than Parnell had sought.
Muñoz identified oil taxes and coastal management as the two key issues of this legislative session.
Alaska’s coastal zone management program is set to expire, but needs to be renewed to help communities keep a voice in what happens in coastal areas.
“If we don’t get legislation passed this year we lose that seat at the table,” she said.
Five or six years ago the coastal management program was changed to limit community say in what happens, but Muñoz said they were now seeking a bigger role.
“Many communities really want to have a stronger voice at the table,” she said.
Parnell has voiced concerns local communities would seek veto authority they could use to block projects of statewide importance.
• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 586-4816 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.