Gov. Palin to call session on oil tax

Proposal for tax revision, session location have yet to be announced

Posted: Friday, August 03, 2007

Gov. Sarah Palin announced Thursday that today she'll call a special October session of the Alaska Legislature to take a new look at the state's Petroleum Profits Tax.

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She has not said where she prefers the session to be held.

Such a session would be the second special session of the 25th Alaska Legislature, following a one-day, seven-hour session in June in Anchorage to approve senior benefits.

House Democratic Leader Beth Kerttula of Juneau, who has called upon Palin to hold a special session to reconsider the corruption-tainted tax passed last year, praised the governor's action.

The Petroleum Profits Tax, voted into law in 2006, taxes net profits rather than gross income. It has increased Alaska revenue, but not brought in as much money as expected.

Kerttula also said she remains hopeful Palin will not specify a location for the session. If it is up to the Legislature to decide where to meet, it will likely be in Juneau because the logistics at the regular location are better, she said.

"I've heard her comment that she thinks it is a separation of powers issue," Kerttula said.

She said she agrees with Palin that it should be up to the Legislature itself to decide where to meet.

House Speaker John Harris, R-Valdez, said he asked Palin's staff Thursday whether they planned to name a location for the session.

"They gave no indication about location," he said. "I asked them about it and they didn't have anything to say at this point."

Rep. Andrea Doll, D-Juneau, said she hoped Kerttula was correct, but was fearful that Palin's past comments indicated she'd call a session outside Juneau. Those include praise of the successful June special session, the first time the state Legislature had ever met outside Juneau, and comments that a session held "on the road system" would be accessible to more Alaskans.

Senate Finance Committee Co-Chairman Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, said he wanted to meet in Juneau because that was the only location in which the availability of offices, staff, meeting rooms and television would make it possible to adequately deal with a topic as controversial and complicated as petroleum taxes.

"As a finance chair I have no interest in having my committee meetings in a place where we cannot function up to a professional standard," he said.

Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, agreed, and said the legislators needed ready access to their professional staff, including experts in law, finance and research, to do a good job.

"Decisions worth billions or more dollars a year are being made," he said.

"Alaskans are not well served if legislators are doing their job with one hand tied behind their back," Elton said.

Harris has advocated moving the capital before, but said Stedman was right about the convenience of Juneau.

"Logistics are much easier doing it in Juneau. I'm the first one to admit that," he said.

Harris said that while he might prefer a more central location, cost savings might make Juneau a better location for a longer session.

Doll said she hoped the fact that Palin was in the capital for the announcement was a good sign.

"Let's just hope she's coming to Juneau to tell Juneau people that she's chosen Juneau as the place to have it," Doll said.

• Contact Pat Forgey at 523-2240 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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