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Oil Tax Referendum Meets Ballot Requirements

Referendum sponsors submit petition booklets to the Division of Elections on the July 13 deadline. (Vote Yes -- Repeal the Giveaway/Facebook)

Referendum sponsors submit petition booklets to the Division of Elections on the July 13 deadline. (Vote Yes — Repeal the Giveaway/Facebook)

An effort to repeal a tax cut on oil companies hit the magic number for its referendum to appear on the ballot.

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The Division of Elections certified Monday that at least 30,169 of the more than 50,000 signatures submitted by the group “Vote Yes — Repeal the Giveaway” were valid. The group also met a requirement that at least 7 percent of voters in a minimum of 30 legislative districts want to vote on the referendum. As of Friday, 33 of the 40 districts had passed that number.

Of the nearly 44,000 signatures the Division of Elections has reviewed, about 12,000 have been set aside. That’s not uncommon. Every ballot proposition submitted in the past decade has had at least 10 percent of signatures disqualified, with one — an initiative to ban aerial wolf and bear kills — seeing nearly half of its signatures struck out.

Even though the referendum has cleared all the statutory hurdles, Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai says nothing is official yet. She says the computer-count of signatures won’t be finished until tomorrow, and that a manual review of all the questioned signatures might take until the end of August to complete.

“I think it’s all premature to say anything will be on the ballot until the lieutenant governor receives the paperwork and issues a certification.”

Once the referendum is certified, there’s still the possibility of a legal challenge. The fight over lowering oil taxes has been lengthy and dramatic, with plenty of money at stake. Legislation passed this spring means the state is to forego at least $3 billion in revenue over the next five years. Tax cut supporters say the cut is needed to spur production on the North Slope, but those hoping to repeal the legislation are skeptical of that claim and liken the tax break to corporate welfare.

If the referendum is certified, it will appear on the August primary ballot in 2014.

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