Arguments Increase Over Tax Reform Bills

Friction continues in the Capitol surrounding those “action alerts” – emailed messages inviting people to give their opinions on the Senate’s oil tax bill that’s being written this week.  The governor, the Alaska Oil and Gas Association and Chamber of Commerce all announced the teleconference hearings to encourage participation by their members and supporters.

Senate Resource Committee co-chairman Joe Paskvan  — when asked about the alerts at a press conference on Tuesday – said the public could find them misleading.  Along with his response to the emails, he said the governor’s message specifically cast doubts on the Department of Revenue.

The statement in the governor’s action alert that indicated that SB192 is a tax increase – and I would point out that the Department of Revenue’s fiscal note indicates, quote, ‘Given the department’s Fall 2011 oil price, production and lease expenditure forecast through 2017,  the tax rate changes from this bill are not projected to have a direct revenue impact.’   In other words,  it’s not a tax increase.

Paskvan also said the Committee’s second version – called the committee substitute – had also gotten a response by the Revenue Department – showing a $250-million dollar annual reduction in tax revenue.

So neither, according to the Department of Revenue, SB192 nor the committee substitute for SB192 are tax increases.

In his own press conference today Governor Parnell said Paskvan’s criticism contained – quote – “broad, sweeping statements”   — meaning it  was not specific.  And he defended the emails.

I sent out a legislative action alert saying, “Get down there; offer public testimony.”   My statement expressly referenced SB192 which was a tax increase because it took the cap off in the original version.  The slide that Commissioner Butcher offered that is being offered as something different than I said was related to the committee substitute for SB192. This is a moving target.  There was no inconsistency in the statements made.

Paskvan’s comments were specific enough to include both the original bill and the substitute – and both statements gave the department of Revenue as the source.  Parnell called on the public – and legislators –  to stop,  take a breath and dig into what was actually said.

I told the truth.  The commissioner told the truth, and that we’re all here trying to get the job done for Alaskans.

Senate President Gary Sevens said he hopes the legislature can put to bed the recent deceptive talk about tax increases, and closing the TransAlaska Pipeline, adding that he believes the people have gone beyond that.

The Senate Resources Committee did take two evenings of public testimony on the tax reform issue — hearing from 140 people from around the state.  A final committee version will be released and sent to the Finance Committee next week.

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