Alaska group to evaluate how to advance tax debate

JUNEAU — Supporters of changes to Alaska's oil production tax structure have called for a meeting to discuss how best to advance the debate after another legislative defeat.


Marc Langland and Jim Jansen, co-chairs of the Make Alaska Competitive Coalition, in an email Tuesday said they are not giving up on pressing for what they call meaningful tax reform, saying the state's economic future is at stake.

The state relies heavily on oil production revenues to run. Recent high oil prices have helped to mask the impact of steady production declines.

A meeting of the group's steering committee, which according to its website includes former Govs. Tony Knowles and Bill Sheffield, is planned in the coming weeks. A precise date wasn't given.

"We are going to continue the effort as long as it takes," a spokesman for the group, Jason Moore, said. Just what form that might take, though, needs to be decided.

The group, which includes businesses, individuals and organizations, was among those on either side of the issue that ran ads or otherwise got involved during the recent legislative debate.

While oil taxes were the dominant issue for the 27th Legislature, efforts to change the system stalled.

Last year, the Senate refused to follow the House's lead and rejected Gov. Sean Parnell's plan to cut taxes as a way to boost investment and production, with leaders saying they didn't have the information needed to make a sound policy call.

The expectation coming into this year was that the Senate would take the lead on the issue. But after months of work, the Senate's bipartisan majority couldn't muster the necessary support for a tax structure overhaul, and the plan the Senate passed at the end of the session, intended to encourage new-field oil production, was torpedoed by the House. Speaker Mike Chenault said there wasn't sufficient time to analyze it.

Parnell put forth a new tax-cut plan of his own during a special session but pulled it amid criticism from legislators in both chambers that it was ill-conceived or poorly explained.

His spokeswoman, Sharon Leighow, said Parnell plans during the interim to analyze the previous oil tax testimony and consider what changes need to be made. She said nothing has been decided on any specific proposal that the administration might pursue.