North Slope mayor warns bond bill hurts ANWR efforts

Posted: Tuesday, November 27, 2001

ANCHORAGE - North Slope Borough Mayor George Ahmaogak is looking for allies in the oil industry to help derail a legislative proposal that would limit his borough's taxing powers.

Ahmaogak was blunt when he complained about some urban legislators in an Anchorage speech several weeks ago.

"When you have asked us to put a Native face on the effort to open ANWR or build a gas line down the highway, we've always been there," Ahmaogak told members of the Alaska Support Industry Alliance, an organization of oil field contractors. "I'd hate to have you learn the hard way that we've got some cards, too."

The mayor is trying to halt a move to limit his borough's ability to tax the North Slope oil fields to build schools, power plants and sanitation systems.

Ahmaogak compared the state's 1973 property tax law to a "treaty" allowing North Slope Inupiat to benefit from the huge pool of oil in their region.

"If your legislators want to back out after all these years, then all bets are off," Ahmaogak said.

The measure, which would limit the borough's ability to sell new bonds for construction, passed the state Senate 11-9 in the closing hours of last year's session. It awaits action by the House in January.

Republican leaders of the Senate Finance Committee, who drew up the bill, say the borough is siphoning off money that should go to all Alaskans.

The borough has abused the intent of the 1973 tax law, said a statement from the other co-chairman, Sen. Dave Donley, an Anchorage Republican.

Donley's bill would limit a municipality's per capita debt, effectively shutting down the borough's future bond sales. Local taxes on the oil companies would then decline, and more money would go instead to the state, because oil companies can deduct municipal taxes from their state tax bill.

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