FAIRBANKS — The backers of a referendum to repeal Gov. Sean Parnell’s oil tax bill stopped in Fairbanks on Wednesday to celebrate the collection of more than 51,000 signatures.
Alaska constitutional delegate Vic Fischer and others thanked a groundswell of volunteers who helped gather signatures in what they said was a successful effort to put a referendum on Parnell’s oil tax bill on the 2014 ballot.
“I’d like to point out that the signatures that came in came in from all over Alaska,” Fischer said. “A phenomenal amount from Ketchikan, from Juneau, virtually everyone from Akiachak on the Kuskokwim River, where just about every adult signed the petition, and this is true for Bethel and Dillingham and all over southwest Alaska and arctic Alaska. It was a phenomenal turnout, and we’re looking at what is to come.”
The meeting included local elected officials such as Rep. Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks and Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins, as well as former Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker.
The signature-gathering effort was opposed by industry-backed groups, who ran advertising and robocalls against a largely volunteer effort in Fairbanks.
Despite gathering well more than the 30,000 signatures required for a referendum, Kawasaki said he’s anxious about the big dollars that could come out for the August 2014 vote.
“I’m pretty apprehensive about the second phase with these corporations that can spend millions and millions to distract voters and undermine it,” he said. “I hope that people really stay engaged and learn about the issues.”
Fischer said he felt Senate Bill 21, which passed with the votes of every Interior Republican legislator, violated the state’s constitutional requirements that resources be developed to the maximum benefit of its residents.
He was optimistic about its repeal. He said if the group was able to gather nearly double the required signatures with a thrown-together group of volunteers, they could come out in strength given 13 months to prepare.
“If everyone who signs gets two people to vote with them to overturn this tax giveaway, we’re going to overwhelmingly win this battle,” he said. “Then we can get the next legislature to do the right thing.”
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