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Oil Tax Referendum Groups Organize For Campaign’s Final Stretch

With three months to go before the primary election, groups with a stake in the oil tax referendum are ramping up their campaigns.

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Vote Yes! Repeal the Giveaway, which sponsored the ballot measure, recently opened up campaign headquarters in Anchorage.

They also hired a full-time campaign manager late last month. T.J. Presley says he plans to run a hyper-local campaign focused on canvassing and social media.

“I think politics is changing these days, and it’s kind of getting a little more advanced and more targeted,” says Presley. “So, I don’t know that blasting TV ads across every channel at every time is always the most targeted way to get things done.”

Presley says they’re following up with the 40,000 registered voters who signed their petition, and trying to identify voters who would likely support their effort.

Because the group has raised less than $200,000, it can’t compete on the airwaves and has not spent any money on television advertisements.

“We don’t have $10 million, so we’ve got to focus our resources where they’re going to be most effective.”

A few blocks down the street from the Vote Yes headquarters, a rival group has also set up shop.

Vote No on One, which wants to keep the new tax law in place, opened up their own campaign offices this month. But they’ve been running campaign commercials since last year. Willis Lyford, a spokesperson for the group, says their campaign has been in full swing a long time compared to the referendum sponsors.

“Better late than never, I guess,” says Lyford. “I mean we’ve really invested a lot of time in outreach across the state.”

According to filings with the Alaska Public Offices Commission, Vote No on One has raised more than $8 million since they launched their campaign. Most of that money comes from Exxon, ConocoPhillips, and BP – who all have major oil operations on Alaska’s North Slope.

The tax law targeted for repeal was signed last year, and it caps the oil production tax at 35 percent. It was a major priority for Gov. Sean Parnell, and replaces a system that raised taxes on oil companies as the price per barrel went up. The law was pitched as a way to spur production on the aging North Slope oil fields, but critics say it means less tax revenue for the state.

According to a recent survey by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, 45 percent of people support the referendum while 34 percent want to keep the new tax law in place.

The vote on the referendum will be held on August 19.

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