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Time for Senate to pick an oil tax bill

Posted: February 17, 2012 - 9:38am

On the question of the state's oil tax structure, it's time for the Senate to fish or cut bait.

The Senate has spent plenty of time cutting bait. Lots of bait.

They've got reams of their own research, and spent the past weeks hearing from lawyers and consultants on the topic.

But after a year of studying and waiting, it's time for the Senate to put together a bill. And preferrably, just one bill.

Currently, Gov. Sean Parnell continues to stump for HB 110, his rewrite of the tax structure which passed the House last session. The Senate has declined to take up that piece of legislation.

Instead, the Senate is working on what leaders termed a "generic" oil tax bill. Senate President Gary Stevens said that senators didn't want to set "false expectations" by putting something into a bill and then changing it later. The committee process will address issues with the current tax structure, particularly the progressivity formula that kicks in when oil prices are high. Stevens says the goal is to get a bill to the House with at least a month to go in the session.

That concept might work fine, except that there are mulitple bills dealing with the oil tax structure being shopped around. Sen. Tom Wagoner, a Kenai Republican and co-chair of the resource committee, is using his bill for tax credits for developing new production as vehicle. Sen. Lesil McGuire said she would include the measures addressing the progressivity formula from HB 110 as a placeholder -- but would also offer three more amendments as alternatives. Another bill would decouple oil gas for tax purposes. And another would actually increase the tax on oil.

Alaska's oil tax structure certainly is complex, and we expect our lawmakers to approach changes with caution.

But it's decision time. Pick a bill, amend as necessary, and let's have a vote.

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