Alaska oil tax initiative has enough valid signatures to appear on ballot, election officials say

Supporters of the initiative to raise oil taxes pose for a photo on January 16, 2020. From left to right: Les Gara,
Jane Angvik, Robin Brena, David Carter and Harry Crawford. (Nat Herz/Alaska Public Media)

An initiative that would raise taxes on Alaska’s largest oil fields has enough valid signatures to go before voters, election officials say.

The proposed initiative, called the Fair Share Act, needed 28,501 signatures from registered Alaska voters to get on a statewide ballot. It also needed a minimum number of those signatures to be from at least 30 House districts.

It has met both of those requirements, according to Gail Fenumiai, director of the Alaska Division of Elections.

As of Monday, election officials had verified more than 36,000 signatures.

Fenumiai said the division will continue to review the remaining names, and then forward the information to Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer.

“He certifies the initiative for placement on the ballot,” she said.

When the initiative would appear on a ballot depends on when the Alaska Legislature wraps up its work. If the current legislative session ends by April 19, the initiative would go on the August primary ballot. If it ends later, it would appear during the next scheduled election, Fenumiai said.

Also, if the Legislature passes a bill that is “substantially similar” to the proposed initiative, then it would not appear on the ballot, she said.

Related: An Anchorage attorney made a fortune fighting Big Oil in Alaska court. Now he’s funding the campaign to raise their taxes.

The proposed ballot initiative would raise the minimum tax and eliminate oil tax credits for Alaska’s largest legacy fields: Prudhoe Bay, Kuparuk and Alpine. It would also require oil companies to publicly report their revenues and costs from those fields.

Supporters of the initiative say oil companies aren’t paying enough in taxes. They say the initiative could bring in another $1 billion. But those opposed to the initiative say it would hurt the industry, and make investing in the state less attractive.

The group OneAlaska was formed last year to oppose the initiative. It has raised about $2 million, including a pair of nearly $800,000 donations from both Hilcorp and ExxonMobil in mid-February.

The group supporting the initiative, Vote Yes for Alaska’s Fair Share, reports raising about $340,000, much of it from Robin Brena, an Anchorage-based oil and gas lawyer and primary sponsor of the initiative.