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Opponents of Alaska oil tax legislation seek to get referendum on 2014 ballot

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Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 12:19 am, Wed Jun 5, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — Organizers behind the Fairbanks effort to repeal Gov. Sean Parnell’s oil tax reform legislation say their blue petition booklets are on track to get the signatures needed to get the referendum on the 2014 ballot.

More than 3,500 signatures, 10 percent of voters who cast ballots in the last election, are needed in the Fairbanks area and will count toward the more than 30,000 signatures needed statewide to repeal the bill they call “a massive giveaway.”

“In Fairbanks, it’s going pretty darn well,” said Rep. Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks. “People understand the issue pretty clearly. They want to see more oil in the pipeline, and they want to see a guarantee.”

Kawasaki is the lead on the volunteer-driven effort to collect signatures for the petition; he was joined by most Democrats in voting against the measure.

He argues that the change gives away too much without guarantees of production. He said the few credits that are tied to new oil are nearly inconsequential when compared to the fiscal impact of eliminating progressivity on all oil, new and old.

He said more than 100 people are actively carrying petitions and gathering signatures.

The group held a barbecue during the weekend, where it gathered more than 100 signatures. The effort has until July 13 to gather the necessary signatures.

It’s an effort that has been lambasted by supporters of Senate Bill 21, which passed with the vote of every Republican lawmaker in the

Interior.

Supporters point to continued slumping decline under the last tax regime, ACES, and recent announcements of new investments on the North Slope.

Although SB21 supporters acknowledge that some of the projects had been in the works regardless of the tax structure.

At a Tuesday morning meeting hosted by a group called “We Are Alaska,” which is tied to the Alaska Support Industry Alliance, Rebecca Logan criticized the petition carriers, saying they don’t know the bill.

“If you don’t understand what’s in this bill, you shouldn’t be participating in this discussion,” she told an audience of more than 70 people.

Logan and We Are Alaska are holding similar meetings aimed at making the case for SB21 throughout the state and have launched radio ads discouraging people from signing the petition.

Primarily, Logan contended that the bill isn’t a multibillion-dollar giveaway and that it has ties to new oil.

“What did it cost? Not

$2 billion,” she said, explaining that the cost is closer to the $600 million to $700 million range. “If you hear anybody say that, you can say confidently that they’re wrong.”

She said the recent announcements by BP and others of new investment are heartening proof that the new tax regime works. BP has, however, conceded that some of its projects were already in the works before the latest tax bill passed.

“If the referendum fails, we’re going to see more jobs, more production and revenue stability,” she said.

Kawasaki took issue with nearly every point offered by Logan, saying that the Support Industry Alliance has pushed for oil taxes for years and people are familiar with the issue.

“There’s been five years’ worth of attempts by oil companies to change oil taxes,” he said. “Maybe people don’t understand what the blue book is, but they do understand the issue. It has been a fairly easy sell for most.”

Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544 and follow him on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.

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