At confirmation hearing, Fisher says he supports diversifying state revenue

Sheldon Fisher, commissioner-designee for the Department of Revenue, listens while he is introduced in the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. He was there to participate in his confirmation hearing. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

Sheldon Fisher, Gov. Bill Walker’s choice to be the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Revenue, had a confirmation hearing with the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. He was appointed in September to replace Randall Hoffbeck, who resigned to return to religious ministry.

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Fisher said he supports diversifying the sources of revenue for the state. But he didn’t champion any individual tax during the hearing.

Fisher is the former Department of Administration commissioner and previously worked as an executive at McKinley Capital Management and Alaska Communications.

After the hearing, Fisher said the biggest source of new revenue should be a draw on Alaska Permanent Fund earnings.

“My ambition is to try to bring some degree of stability to Alaska, so that we can begin to see investment return to our state and put people back to work,” Fisher said.

Fisher said that if the Legislature approves a permanent fund draw plan, then it can return in the future to close the rest of the gap between state spending and revenue. That could occur through either new taxes or spending cuts.

Fisher said a plan to pay oil and gas tax credits by selling state bonds also would help investment in the state. Under Senate Bill 176, oil companies would have the option to take lower rates for the credits in return for receiving the cash sooner than they would under current state law.

“It’s a win for our budget, because we can reduce the amount of the obligation during the upcoming period,” Fisher said. “It’s a win for the producers because they can kind of clean up their balance sheet and get back to work. And it’s a win for Alaskans because it will be an infusion in our economy at a time when we need it.”

The Legislature hasn’t announced when it will vote on all of Walker’s appointees.