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Legislature should hold hearing on referendum

Posted: March 4, 2014 - 9:43am

The state legislature has broken the law and failed to hold hearings on the upcoming Oil Giveaway repeal initiative. Last year, the state legislature held many hearings on declining oil production and S.B. 21, more commonly known as the “Oil Giveaway.” So why wouldn’t state legislators want to hold a hearing on oil production now?

Perhaps it is because the Parnell Administration acknowledges that oil production will be lower with the Oil Giveaway than under the previous tax system. Oil companies have told reporters that oil production will continue to decline. Meanwhile, Alaska has become mired in multi-billion dollar deficits as we earn less money for production of our oil.

State legislators don’t want a hearing on the referendum to repeal the Oil Giveaway because it has failed to boost production, and those who supported it are hoping that nobody notices. Well, Alaskans know what’s going on: That’s why 50,000 of us signed the petition to put repeal of the Oil Giveaway on the ballot in 2014. You have a chance to start fixing these deficits and get more oil in the pipeline: Just vote “yes” on Proposition 1.

As we consider the legislature’s failure to hold hearings on the Oil Giveaway, we need to honor our Alaska history and our Alaska values. More than a half century ago, the Constitutional Convention required the legislature to ensure Alaskans get the “maximum benefit” from resource development. The Oil Giveaway is a direct assault on that principle of “maximum benefit.” The Oil Giveaway is an assault on what Governor Hickel called the “Owner State.”

Recently, we have learned that the Oil Giveaway isn’t just a threat to our Constitutional values — it also threatens the Permanent Fund. Bella Hammond, widow of Jay Hammond, is one of the primary sponsors working to pass Proposition One. We should honor the Hammond legacy by repealing the Oil Giveaway and protecting the PFD.

I’m not surprised that the legislature wouldn’t want to hold a hearing on how the Oil Giveaway threatens the PFD. As the Legislative Finance Division and even Republican legislators acknowledged, taking money from the Permanent Fund could be on the table because of these billion dollar deficits. Of course, Oil Giveaway supporters don’t want a hearing on this — assaults on the Permanent Fund are very unpopular, as they should be.

It is time for the state legislature to follow the law. We should have hearings on how the Oil Giveaway is contributing to billion dollar deficits and threatening the PFD. When the Oil Giveaway threatens our Alaska values, we have a right to know why. And, we should consider how voting Yes on Proposition One can begin to fix the problems we are facing.

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