Energy lobbyist denounces Walker’s oil and gas tax changes

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The top energy industry lobbyist in Alaska denounced Governor Bill Walker’s proposed oil and gas tax changes on Monday.

Alaska Oil and Gas Association President Kara Moriarty told the House Resources Committee that companies can’t afford higher costs when oil prices are low.

“If you want the policy of Alaska to be to raise taxes on an industry that has negative tax flow, then that’s your prerogative,” said Moriarty. “But what we’re saying is that that policy will impact their investment and production.”

Walker proposes raising the minimum oil and gas tax from 4 to 5 percent. He also wants to eliminate some tax credits for drilling and exploration.

The changes would reduce the state government’s three-and-a-half-billion-dollar deficit by five hundred million dollars.

Representative Geran Tarr, an Anchorage Democrat, asked Moriarty to reconcile industry concerns with the actions of some companies, such as Hilcorp, which gave employees one hundred thousand dollar bonuses last year.

“How can you expect the Alaska public to react to information like that and then, you know, respond that they think, you know, that that company is hurting?” Tarr asked.

Moriarty says Hilcorp honored a long-term commitment to their workers with the bonuses. She added that other major employers have been laying off workers in Alaska.

Armstrong Oil and Gas Chairman Bill Armstrong says other states have had stable oil and gas taxes. But Alaska has made several changes over the past decade, making it more difficult to invest.

And he says most countries have been cutting taxes on energy companies.

“They’re all making things better,” Armstrong said. “With the exception of three countries that I could find: Congo, Madagascar, and Tanzania. And Alaska. Four – three countries and a state. So, to make things worse when things are bad is, you’re kind of in rare company.”

The committee will hear testimony from more industry executives on Tuesday.