Last legislative session, our governor proposed an annual $2,000,000,000 tax break (for 10 years, with no strings attached!) for the companies that extract our oil and gas resources from the ground. Thanks to the work of moderate Republicans and Democrats in the Senate Bipartisan Coalition the give-away failed. A compromise plan was rejected by the governor. Now we are just weeks away from an election that may well determine the economic future of the State of Alaska.
There are two candidates in the Senate District O race, both Republican. Senator Tom Wagoner of Kenai has the advantage of incumbency — many years of doing constituent work and handing out our share of the state’s capital project goodies. A challenge he faces is that Homer is suddenly included in his district — still smarting from his attempt to slow the extension of the natural gas line in their direction.
Mayor Peter Micciche of Soldotna has the advantage of name recognition. He is the official city spokesperson. He has made masterful use of any available free media, and has carefully coordinated his paid personal radio ads with city ads. He has spent years building a portfolio of impressive nonprofit board service, enhanced by dispensing large monetary contributions to deserving groups and projects — from his employer, ConocoPhillips. Most people will have forgotten that he was not on the side of the angels in the long struggle to settle Soldotna’s cemetery into its present location.
Both men are on record opposing the Senate Bipartisan Coalition. However, many voters view the coalition as a successful moderating influence, in refreshing contrast to the partisan gridlock found in Washington. Senator Wagoner, working with others, was able to pass legislation to encourage increased oil exploration and production in Cook Inlet. And, he sided with the coalition, against the tax give-away. One only need drive through Kenai and toward Nikiski to see that even without “giving away the farm” the industry is moving forward.
Mr. Micciche is smart and charming. He has honed his skills with executive training and support from ConocoPhillips. He has been in a position to distribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to grateful local communities, donated by his company, a global corporation that made millions of dollars a day here last quarter and presents itself as Alaska’s Oil and Gas Company.
He recently declared his opposition to the governor’s tax break, joining most Alaskans in the view that “a tax reduction needs to be tied to guarantees that ensure production.” Since this is the precise position of the senate coalition, why does he criticize their work? I wish I could trust him, but because of past dealings with him on local issues, I cannot.
Alaska’s legislature is already comprised of many people who have strong financial ties to the oil industry, as well as a host of former legislators who now lobby on their behalf. Let’s keep Mayor Micciche in Soldotna and reduce the possiblility that Alaska will one day become just another cheap resource colony for the world’s multinational corporations.