Members of the oil industry and several other stakeholders across Alaska have formed a group to oppose a ballot initiative proposal seeking to overhaul the state's oil and gas tax system.
OneAlaska, formally announced today, is a group specifically formed to urge Alaskans to vote against the proposed ballot measure called Alaska's Fair Share.
Proponents of the ballot measure are still gathering signatures in order to get the issue on the ballot. If it makes it on the ballot and is passed by voters, the proposal would rework the state’s oil and gas tax system and provide the state with additional revenue from oil sales.
But members of the OneAlaska steering committee say the ballot measure would hurt the state's oil economy.
“With several significant, new development projects in the works, adding a punitive new tax on companies that are trying to invest in Alaska is the wrong idea at the wrong time,” said Chantal Walsh, former director of the Division of Oil and Gas and now chair of OneAlaska.
OneAlaska filed with the Alaska Division of Elections on Wednesday as an active opposition group, according to group spokeswoman Sarah Erkmann Ward. While OneAlaska doesn't plan to file a counter ballot measure, filing with the division is a required part of becoming an officially recognized opposition group, Ward noted.
The group is made up of a collection of labor union leaders, business officials, Alaska Native group leaders and advocates for Alaska's oil industry. The group's committee of co-chairs boasts a broad political spread including former Anchorage independent Rep. Jason Grenn, Secretary and Treasurer of Anchorage Teamsters Local 959 Gary Dixon and conservative state's rights advocate John Sturgeon.
Kara Moriarty, president and CEO of Alaska Oil and Gas Association, told the Daily News-Miner Thursday afternoon that she feels the proposed ballot measure is bad economic policy.
"I think the group that has been formed is a pretty diverse, eclectic group of Alaskans, who clearly are concerned about protecting Alaska's economy," Moriarty said of OneAlaska. "They come from a wide variety of backgrounds politically, economically, geographically, and I think it sends a message that as we've been saying all along that increasing oil taxes by –– as the sponsors acknowledged –– at least a 200% tax increase, will clearly have an impact on the economy, investments and jobs."
Moriarty that AOGA members oppose the proposal due to many of the same fears and concerns.
"Whether it's refineries or the pipeline or small companies or big companies," Moriarty said. "Because it's just a huge step backward and, in our view, a very misguided and risky approach that clouds our state's future."
Alaska's Fair Share was introduced as a proposed ballot measure in August and soon garnered both hefty support and significant pushback.
The group backing the proposed ballot measure includes committee members like Robin Brena who previously served as chair of former Gov. Bill Walker’s transition subcommittee on oil and gas, Merrick Peirce, former CFO for the Alaska Gasline Port Authority and Ken Alper, former director of the Alaska Department of Revenue’s Tax Division.
Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, who is responsible for either approving or rejecting any proposed ballot initiatives, gave the proposal his stamp of approval to move forward last month, a move which allowed the group to begin collecting the 28,501 signatures to get the initiative on the ballot.
Nate Graham, spokesman for the Fair Share ballot initiative proposal, said they were disappointed with the formation of the opposition group.
"OneAlaska claims that 'a healthy industry funds public services, the Permanent Fund and infrastructure'. However, the industry is currently making record profits in Alaska. By their standard, Alaska should also be thriving," Graham told the Daily News-Miner in a Thursday message. "Instead, the state continues to gut essential government services like the Alaska Marine Highway and the University of Alaska, and reduce permanent fund dividends. This is because we are giving away our oil and have been for the past several years."
The Fair Share group is in the process of collecting signatures. Graham noted that signature booklets are still in the process of being tallied and the group does not have a current count of how many signatures have been collected.
If approved and passed by voters, the overhaul of the current policy is estimated to provide the state with approximately $1 billion in additional revenue each year.
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.