As protests against legislation overhauling the state’s oil tax structure were held across the state today, the bill continues to evolve inside the Capitol building. The latest version would lower taxes more than the last one. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports.
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It was past 2am on Thursday before the House Resources Committee finally settled on a bill that they could pass out. They went through 34 amendments with many failing, some passing, some being withdrawn, and other folding into each other.
Committee Co-chair Eric Feige, a Chickaloon Republican, explains that they set up a mechanism where a state agency could issue bonds for oil processing facilities on the North Slope and that they extended a credit for small oil producers. But the biggest change?
“We lowered the base rate, which reduces the government take down to a range that all our consultants told us was a competitive range for the state.”
They brought down the tax ceiling from 35 percent to 33. Each percentage change is estimated to be worth about an extra $100 million in revenue.
Those changes are being examined closely by a group of swing votes in the Senate. Republican Senators Click Bishop, Peter Micciche, and Mike Dunleavy have previously stated that they want Alaska to be comparable with other states in terms of the tax structure, but they don’t want to necessarily undercut them. None of the three senators had taken a position on the bill Thursday, and their offices say they’re still reviewing the changes. The bill still has to get through one more committee and a vote on the House floor before it gets to them.
Feige thinks that the changes his committee made should be within their bounds.
“I’m optimistic that the Senate will agree with our bill and when it goes over for a vote of concurrence that they will concur,” says Feige. “If not, there’s a process for that.”
Just ten hours after Resources committee passed their bill out, a couple hundred people gathered in front of the Capitol to protest the oil tax bill in any form. The rally was organized by Backbone, a group that has been drumming up opposition to what they describe as a billion-dollar giveaway to oil companies. Rodney Hesson says he came out because he’s worried that the legislation would her the state’s treasury without getting a guarantee of more oil production.
“It’s going to wipe out our huge savings account that we’ve been able to build up while the rest of the country suffers. It’s a very backwards way to think.”
In response to the rally, the pro-oil tax Make Alaska Competitive Coalition, sent out a statement saying that Alaskans “voted for reform last November” when they elected a solidly Republican legislature. The group has no plans for a counter-protest at this time.