New bill from House lawmaker would hike minimum tax on oil industry

Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, , during discussions about the state operating budget shortly before it was passed out of the House Finance Committee, March 9, 2016. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

A state House lawmaker has released another bill proposing changes to the state’s oil and gas tax credit regime. Anchorage Democrat Les Gara debuted his bill, called the “Fair Share for Alaska’s Oil Act,” on Wednesday (Feb. 15).

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Among the changes proposed in the bill is an increase in the state’s current minimum tax, from 4 percent up to 10 percent, as oil prices rise.

“We can’t afford to run a state when Prudhoe Bay is only paying a 4 percent tax; that’s tiny. So, as prices go up and companies get more profitable we say the tax should go up fairly,” Gara said.

Other members of the House Majority coalition released another bill last week that would also make major changes to the current oil tax credit structure. Gara said his bill is intended to supplement that one.

“They’re focusing mostly on tax credits and we’ve all decided that we should throw out the best ideas that we have and then see which ones we can get support for and pass,” Gara said.

Representatives from the oil and gas industry have repeatedly told lawmakers this session that they want the tax structure to remain stable. Gara said he’s aiming for an equitable split of profits from oil production in his bill, but thinks there will be push-back from the industry.

“I think industry has its duty to protect its shareholders and I have a duty to protect my voters, who are my shareholders,” Gara said.  “They’re going to say a penny in taxes will drive them off the edge.”

The bill hasn’t yet been scheduled for committee hearings.